What Does a Pharmacy Technician Actually Do?

If you are looking for a new career in healthcare, but aren’t looking for hands-on patient care, a pharmacy technician may be the perfect job for you. But what exactly does a pharmacy technician do?

That’s a common question and the truth is, there is such a small line between pharmacist and pharmacy technician, it can often be hard to tell who is who from a patient’s standpoint. It is important to understand the role before you find a pharmacy technician training program to get your certification.

The Day to Day

Like most healthcare jobs, no two days are ever the same. The workload varies upon the number of prescriptions and the number of people working, and of course, the types of medication being dispensed.

Another factor in the variance of day-to-day work is the location where you work. Duties at a retail location are going to be very different from those who work in a hospital. Although they require the same certification, they are two very different jobs.

Retail Pharmacy

A typical day in retail pharmacy is usually exactly what you would expect it to be, mostly because these are highly visible positions to anyone who is visiting the pharmacy. Some typical tasks include

  • Filing paperwork
  • Submitting insurance claims
  • Running the cash register
  • Assisting the Pharmacist
  • Tracking Inventory
  • Counting medications

While doing all of this you are talking to patients and helping them with their pharmaceutical needs. However, it is important to remember that a pharmacy technician cannot give out medical advice to people – that is the role of the Pharmacist.

Larger retail pharmacies will have multiple people working the same shifts making your load a little less, whereas smaller pharmacies may be only you and the pharmacist. A licensed pharmacist is required to supervise all techs on every shift.

Hospital Pharmacy

A pharmacy technician in a hospital is a completely different role than those who work in a retail location. Not only is the environment completely different, but the job itself is also quite different.

Hospital pharmacies have very different drugs than their retail counterparts. While they still dispense antibiotics and other common medications that make up most of the retail’s drug supply, they also work on compound medications, as well as some of the strongest medications there are, such as Chemotherapy drugs.

When it comes to delivering drugs in a hospital, pharmacy technicians are often responsible for their safe transit. Especially important with temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals, making sure they are safely delivered within their guidelines is essential.

Another extremely important role in a hospital setting is a medication history technician. This role can sometimes be a full-time job in itself in larger and busier hospitals. Always filled by a pharmacy tech, these historians meet with each patient to go over their medical history and discuss any allergies or drug interactions they may have had in the past. This is such an important role for medically complex patients who may be prescribed many different medications.

Another hospital-specific job duty is the involvement in clinical trials. Pharmacy technicians are always involved in the hospital’s clinical trials, maintaining paperwork and keeping the experimental drugs safe. Many of the big hospitals have clinical trials often, so there is always the chance of you working on at least one during your time of employment.

Hospital-based pharmacy technicians will also have a lot more interaction with other healthcare providers. During each day it is common that they will talk to hospital staff members, doctors and nurses regarding a patient’s medicine. Aside from an occasional phone call, you don’t really find this in a retail setting.

Duties in Both Places

Something that you will do in both the retail and pharmacy location is to provide superior customer service to all of your patients. It doesn’t matter if you are delivering medications to their nurse or handing them an antibiotic at the pharmacy counter, kindness and a pleasant demeanor matter.

Other soft skills that are necessary to do a pharmacy technician’s job regardless of location include being a team player, constantly willing to learn, having the ability to adapt to quick changes and be flexible, and be a strong communicator.

Details matter in the pharmacy world, so paying extreme attention to details could be the difference between life and death for a patient.

Rewarding No Matter Your Location

No two days will ever be alike in the life of a pharmacy technician. There will always be something to fill, something to chart, and something to learn, regardless of your work location. While life in the hospital is more fast paced and constantly evolving, working on the retail end of things is just as rewarding.  Being a pharmacy technician allows you to help patients with their medications without the rigorous and lengthy degree program of becoming a pharmacist.

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