Many people, especially those who frequent pharmacies, have always assumed that pharmacy technicians behind the dispensary counter have the easiest job in the world. They just hand out the medications or medical device after reviewing the prescription, right? Not necessarily, according to chairman and CEO of the National Pharmacy Technician Association’s Mike Johnston. Johnston knows the job requires a great deal of attention to details, keeping abreast of drug knowledge and demands compassion and empathy for sick patients that have to get their medication on time under the direct supervision of the pharmacist on duty.
Pharmacist technician job description
Most of the duties expected from pharmacy technicians involve dispensing prescription medications and medical equipment and instructing patients how to use them. It will also involve some administrative tasks such as going over prescriptions requests with clinics, coordinating with health insurance companies to check the right medicines are given and that payment is collected in addition to answering phone calls from customers and arranging patient counselling from pharmacists. They use technology to keep patient records accurate, prepare and package medicines, and place orders. They also assist in quantifying, combining and labelling medicines. They also perform pharmaceutical calculations.
State laws define the activities that pharmacy technicians can engage in during their duty. In most states, pharmacy technicians are allowed to compound medications or call doctors for refill authorisations of some prescriptions. They are expected to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders. Those employed in medical establishments are allowed to prepare intravenous medications and would make rounds giving medications to patients.
Pharmacy technicians are often employed in community pharmacies and hospital pharmacies but long-term care establishments, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and even third-party insurance companies also employ their services. The work is often full time and in shifts.
How can you to become a pharmacy technician?
A year-long training program may be offered by vocational schools and community colleges that emphasises all the skills needed by the pharmacy technician on the job. It may include maths used in pharmacy computations and familiarisation on the names, uses, and doses of medications. There are also subjects that touch on how to dispense medications and pharmacy law and ethics. An internship program may also be incorporated in the program to allow their students to gain practical hands on experience. After that, newly graduates can opt for certification. Pharmacy technicians can get certified through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) which is recognised in 50 states in the US.
How much do pharmacy technicians get?
Entry level pharmacy technician’s annual pay range from USD 19,300 to USD 33,700. As they eventually gain experience, intermediate pharmacy technicians can take home between USD 31,500 to USD 39,300 a year. Those who stayed long enough to hold supervisory positions may receive USD 41,300 to USD 53,100 in 12 months.
In 2012, the average wage for pharmacy technicians is USD 30,400 with the biggest pay check pegged at USD 42,400 and the lowest paid receive USD 20,500 a year. Outpatient care centres give the highest compensation at USD 38,800 annually. Metropolitan areas that offer the best pay are all found in the State of California with the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco registering as pay check heaven for pharmacy technicians.
Career outlook for pharmacy technicians
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, majority of pharmacy technicians in the United States are employed in the retail sector. This includes drugstores, retail chains or online pharmacies. About 16 per cent work in nursing homes, pharmaceutical wholesalers and the Federal government. The bureau has predicted a 20 per cent employment growth from 2012 to 2022, way faster than other similar occupations. Johnston attributes this to the aging baby boomers and their need for medications to manage their health conditions as well as the rush of new prescription drugs that have recently been approved and consumed by Americans. About 13 per cent of jobs created between 2000 and 2010 are in health services and nine out of 20 occupations predicted to drastically increase are from health services.
There are many career avenues available for pharmacy technicians. They can take advanced certification programs for drug therapy, nuclear pharmacy or oncology. Some commit to studying pharmacy and become registered pharmacists themselves. Johnson warns that those who do want to pursue a six-year pharmacy degree should consider working part-time as pharmacy technicians so they also get to learn the applications of the materials they are studying in school. A survey conducted by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) of pharmacy practice managers in August 2009 disclosed 56 per cent of institutions present job development prospects for pharmacy technicians but about 81 per cent of the surveyed pharmacy technician’s report that they expect to continue working in the same capacity in five or more years.