Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists as they dispense medicines to customers and to other healthcare professionals. While it is possible to enter the profession with only a high school degree, there are certificate courses available at many universities. A pharmacy technician may earn a certificate in less than one year. The job requires knowledge of the mathematics used in the dispensation of medicines as well as an understanding of the laws that govern pharmacies.
Specific Tasks of a Pharmacy Technician
The tasks assigned to a pharmacy technician will vary from position to position; however, there are certain duties commonly required of people in this role. Pharmacy technicians are typically required to be proficient in these tasks:
Technicians are often required to answer the phone and to interact with customers. A pharmacy technician should be able to respond to customers’ questions and fulfill their requests. They may also be required to pass on some questions to the pharmacist. They should be compassionate and empathetic, as many of the customers they serve will be in poor health. They must also understand the medications they are dispensing and how they may interact with other prescriptions.
This means ensuring that the pharmacy is adequately stocked and that expired medications are removed from the stock. They may also be expected to order medications and to receive them. Keeping a proper count is critical to this task, as the pharmacy technician will be held responsible for any missing medication.
Packaging and Labeling Prescriptions
This involves counting or otherwise measuring prescription medication and printing a label to be affixed to the medication container. When filling prescriptions, they will have to record the prescription number and the date on which it was dispensed. They should know how to use equipment like counting scales such as those sold by North Texas Scales. Counting scales may be used to measure pills for prescriptions.
In some cases, pharmacy technicians may be called on to mix or “compound” the medications they provide. Compounding is the science of combining different ingredients to make customized medicines for patients. A steady hand and clear mind are critical for this task, as variations from directions could result in harm to the customer.
Work Environments for Pharmacy Technicians
Where a pharmacy technician works has a lot to do with the nature of the tasks assigned to them. Pharmacy technicians may find work in:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 53 percent of all pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies. As many pharmacies are open 24 hours every day, pharmacy technicians may be at work at any point in the day and on any day of the week.
Hospitals are the next largest employer with 17 percent of pharmacy technicians. Working in this environment may involve lots of walking for a pharmacy technician. Since these facilities use large quantities of medications, the job may call for a lot of lifting and carrying of heavy boxes.
Grocery and Department Stores
These employ 19 percent of all Pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians work in the pharmacies attached to these stores.