Pharmacy technicians are the front-end persons you see at pharmacies. It is they who actually do the routine work of dispensing medicines – receiving prescriptions, checking for their completeness, retrieving the medication, counting, weighing or otherwise measuring it, preparing the prescription labels, selecting suitable container and labeling it. The filled prescription is then priced and filed, and checked by a pharmacist before being given to the patient.
In effect, pharmacy technician jobs involve helping the pharmacists with the routine tasks of filling prescriptions. The job requires training and certification to understand prescriptions, check their accuracy and completeness, select the right medicines and fill the order attending to all the correct formalities. Technicians might receive requests from patients or directly from doctors. They must be able to decipher doctors’ handwriting and check that the prescription makes sense.
Pharmacy technician jobs are thus more than merely filling tablets and capsules into packets. Technicians might even be required to mix the medication. Where they have any doubts or questions, they must refer these to the pharmacist. That means they must know when and how to ask the right questions!
Other Technical Pharmacy Routines
In addition to filling prescriptions, drug dispensing also involves things like:
- Creating and maintaining patient profiles
- Preparing insurance claim forms
- Reading patient charts at hospitals, preparing and delivering the medicines to the patients (after verification by a pharmacist)
- Organizing the medication delivery to avoid mistakes (by assembling a 24 hour supply of medicines for each patient, packaging and labeling each dose separately in the patient’s medicine cabinet), and getting the packages checked by the pharmacist
It is typically the pharmacy technician’s job to stock the prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the pharmacy shelves, and to take inventory periodically. Pharmacy aides will help the technician in these and other routines such as keeping accounts, answering phones and handling money.
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
As would be clear from the above, the pharmacy technician job require less drug-related knowledge than is needed for a pharmacist but much more knowledge than what a layperson has.
You have to become a certified pharmacy technician by passing an exam to be eligible for a pharmacy technician job. Technician training gives the trainees the skills and knowledge needed to perform the kind of work discussed above.
After completing training, you would typically have to get a state license to work as pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians have also to attend specified hours of continuing education through contact classes to be eligible for re-certification every two years.
Pharmacy Technician Job Prospects
A growing and older population, who typically use more medication, means that there will be an increasing demand for pharmacy technicians. New drug discoveries, for treating more and more conditions, also mean greater need for trained technicians able to fill prescriptions correctly.
Wherever possible, employers will prefer to employ the less expensive pharmacy technician than a highly trained (and consequently expensive) pharmacist.
Pharmacy technician jobs are estimated to grow faster than most categories of jobs.