Retail Pharmacy Technician Job Description

I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy. Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy techs in healthcare. The rest of this article will discuss the job description of pharmacy techs in a retail or community setting, and provide a bulleted list of tasks. Future articles will cover different pharmacy settings for pharmacy techs and the job descriptions and tasks associated with them as well.

Community/Retail Pharmacy: I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Specific roles that pharmacy technicians can have in a retail pharmacy include: general technician, lead technician, buying technician, compounding technician, and billing/insurance technician. In most pharmacies, pharmacy technicians are general technicians with some of the above listed skill sets. When you go into a larger and busier pharmacy, you can actually have job differentiation where people have assigned specialized tasks (based on the needs of the pharmacy).

Pharmacy technician tasks for retail pharmacies include, but are not limited to:

  • Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
  • Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
  • Filling and selling prescriptions
  • Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
  • Compounding medications that are not commercially available
  • Ordering medications
  • Restocking shelves
  • Answering the phone
  • Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
  • Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions

Retail pharmacies tend to get a bad rap from within the pharmacy profession. Although I prefer hospital (which will be the topic of the next article), I enjoyed my time in a retail pharmacy. I was able to get to know the customers (I like say patients) personally. It is a great feeling when a long-time customer comes to the pharmacy and you know them by name, maybe a little about their family, and most important you know their medical history. Because of this relationship, you are able to ensure that the patient’s medication regimen is optimal, as a technician you can help determine if there are generic alternatives to medications prescribed in order to help the patient save money.

In summary, retail pharmacies are the most common type of pharmacy, and therefore the place where the majority of pharmacy techs are employed. Due to an increasing elderly population (thank you baby boomers), retail pharmacies will continue to increase in demand. If you find a pleasant retail pharmacy to work in, and good staff to work with, a retail pharmacy technician position can be a positive experience.

How to Get Certified to Be a Pharmacy Technician?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of pharmacy technicians will increase by 32 percent in the 2010-20 decade.* It further adds that the field will add about 108,300 jobs in the same time period.** Clearly, pharmacy technician is one of the hottest allied healthcare careers right now.

But what is the process involved in becoming a pharmacy technician? If you are looking for answers, we have them for you right here. Presenting a complete step-by-step guide on what it takes to become a certified pharmacy technician.

1. If you want to become a certified pharmacy tech, you need to begin at the beginning, which means taking appropriate classes in high school. Courses in math, health and life sciences will establish just the kind of foundation you’ll need when you start school for pharmacy technician training.

2. The next step is to choose an educational program to get trained in the field. Postsecondary pharmacy tech training is available at community colleges and vocational schools. While some states do not have any educational prerequisites other than a high school diploma for pharmacy techs, others require these professionals to complete formal training in the field.

3. If your state does not mandate that you complete pharmacy tech training, you can start hunting for jobs right away and learn the trades as you go along. However, it’s generally a good idea to go to school for pharmacy technician training to boost your employability whether your state requires it or not.

4. Typical coursework in a pharmacy tech training program includes topics like pharmacology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy law and ethics, prescriptions, non-sterile compounding, etc. Your program may also include an externship in a pharmacy to provide you some valuable, hands-on experience.

5. Even if your pharmacy tech training program does not include practicum or externship, it’s a good idea to find intern positions at your local drug store. You can also arrange for some shadow sessions and observe other pharmacy techs at work to experience what a typical day for them is like.

6. Getting certification is the final and most important step towards reaching your objective. Before you do anything, make sure you meet the regulations set by your state’s pharmacy board. Some of the typical regulations include a high school diploma or GED certificate; criminal background check; formal training program; continuing education, etc.

7.There are two main organizations that offer certification to pharmacy technicians – the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcare Association (NHA). The PTCB certification can be obtained by passing their Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) and meeting other eligibility criteria. The NHA grants certification to technicians who pass the ExCPT pharmacy exam.

8. After you obtain your certification and start practicing as a certified pharmacy tech, make sure you keep meeting the recertification and continuing education demands of your profession.

This is how you begin your journey as a certified pharmacy tech. When you are ready to don that crisp white coat, bear in mind that it becomes your duty to serve your customers – many of whom will be visiting you under stressful circumstances – with a smile on your face and kindness in your heart!

Sources:

*bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Pharmacy-technicians.htm

**Ibid.

Many Different Types of Pharmacy Technician Jobs

It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of pharmacy technician jobs today, and that number is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next 5 to 10 years.

Working as a pharmacy technician or `PT` is one of the best jobs with which to enter the healthcare services industry without having a medical degree, and can be a very satisfying position with much room for advancement.

Depending on a person’s education and job experience it is possible to move into a variety of specialized employment positions with their qualifications, as there is much more to the job than simple retail sales at a drugstore or chemists.

Different Pharmacy Technician Jobs

Retail – This is the most known setting and position for most PTs. Technicians who are employed by retail pharmacy stores do a variety of jobs, which start with assisting the Registered Pharmacist or PharmD on duty but generally expand to many other duties that are typical in any retail environment.

Techs will count and prepare medications, do record keeping, inventory, ordering, stocking, insurance billing and records, and much more depending on the establishment and the need to do other tasks as well.

Depending on qualification and certification, sometimes pharmacy techs in a retail setting are also able to counsel consumers on the use of their prescribed medication as well. It is possible to obtain a job as a PT without any specialized education or training although more and more employers are beginning to require one or the other, or sometimes both.

Hospital – Every hospital has a pharmacy from where both outpatient prescriptions can be filled and inpatient medications are dispensed.

Working under the Pharmacist on duty, pharmacy technicians in a hospital setting are usually responsible for stocking, delivering and recording all medications that need to go to the different hospital departments, specially compounding medications for patients in the hospital and taking care of any and all medication requests throughout the hospital from other staff.

Knowing all hospital regulations in regard to the dispensing and handling of medications is a detailed yet essential part of the job as is being able to keep concise records for billing, inventory and legal purposes.

In-patient Care Facilities – Numerous types of inpatient care facilities such as rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals and other facilities keep their own pharmacies as well, and require technicians to assist the Pharmacist on duty.

Pharmacy technician jobs usually entail inventory, stocking, ordering and recording of medications, preparing medication doses for patients, delivering daily medication doses to nursing stations, and most of the duties mentioned above as in any other hospital. Once again, record keeping and regulations are an extremely important part of the job for billing, inventory and legal purposes.

Medication Compounding – Certain pharmacies do not sell directly to the public, but instead create special medication mixes – called compounds – for other pharmacies and facilities.

In a compounding pharmacy, technicians are required to work under the supervision and guidance of the Pharmacist on duty in mixing medications as required by special orders, bulk orders for hospitals and facilities and other requests. Generally this work also involves great detail in record keeping, interpreting prescriptions, medication labeling and medication packing and shipping.

Obtaining Pharmacy Technician Jobs

The best way to get a job as a PT is to complete a training and education program for pharmacy techs. There are many of these programs available today lasting anywhere from 6 months to get a course certificate and basic education for a retail pharmacy setting to up to 2 years or more to become certified as a pharmacy technician and be able to advance to some of the more detailed positions mentioned above.

The best way to find out about schooling and any career requirements is to contact any local pharmacy technicians’ professional organizations in order to get recommendations and learn more about the career as a whole.

In most cases, those who have been to school should be able to get pharmacy technician jobs quite easily as it seems there is a constant and growing need for good, certified pharmacy technicians.

While qualifications do differ depending on state, region and country, in general it seems as though there are always positions available as the profession continues to grow and pharmacy technicians continue to get more and more responsibilities under their specialty.