A pharmacy technician is an essential support staff of any establishment that offers pharmacy services. They are the faces the clients often see when they bring in their prescriptions or the voice they hear first when they want to ask the pharmacist about their medications. It looks easy work but actually there is more than what meets the eye.
In order to understand what a pharmacy technician does, it would be easier to classify them according to the types of tasks they are expected to perform at work. A typical day for a pharmacy technician is never the same as they perform a wide variety of tasks that ensures the operation of the pharmacy goes smoothly.
So what does a pharmacy tech do?
- Customer service. This responsibility includes everything that involves any interaction with the clients that subscribe or related to the pharmacy’s services. It requires politeness, helpfulness and great listening skills aside from keeping an eye out on details and being great with numbers. It used to be the domain of pharmacy assistants but as employers prefer more bang to their buck, they hire pharmacy technicians instead to do the job. It includes the following charges:
- Use the phone. Some clients ask questions about their medications over the phone and it is the pharmacy technician’s job to direct their inquiries to the pharmacists. They can call the doctor’s office regarding prescription refills but must not take new prescriptions over the phone.
- Accommodating clients. Pharmacy technicians can receive and sell prescriptions to clients. This also means they should be able to encode these prescriptions into the computer.
- Collecting payments. Whether they have to manage the till for cash payments or collaborate with insurance claims, pharmacy technicians ensure that the pharmacy gets compensated for the services it provides its clientele.
- Administrative work. Aside from waiting on clients, the pharmacy technician also does some work at the back office which involves the maintenance and orderliness of stocks, file regulation and equipment upkeep necessary to provide pharmacy services in the most efficient of ways. It is often performed during down time, or the time when clients are few or far in between. Assignments will involve the following:
- Inventory management. They should be able to reconcile the narcotics and controlled substance (CII) perpetual inventory and should always report any discrepancies. They can also order, receive, unpack, and store drug shipments correctly.
- File organisation. They should also be able to get and record patient drug histories for their records but should keep everything confidential outside the pharmacy. They should also be able to recover and sort Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) records in the computer or its hard copy.
- Equipment maintenance. They should be able to load automated drug distribution equipment but should wait until it’s checked by the pharmacist.
- Pharmaceutical techniques. The one thing that differentiates the pharmacy technician from the outdated duties of the pharmacy assistant is this specific type of task that requires them in some states to at least secure a temporary license before they can perform anything that relates to handling medication. They may be under the direct supervision of the pharmacist in-charge but most states demand that they be held responsible for the following:
- Process prescriptions. Preparing prescriptions for dispensing involves doing the proper count and pout technique.
- Prepare medication. They should be able to perform bulk compounding, fill unit-dose, and reconstitute antibiotic suspensions. In some cases, pharmacy technicians with specialised training and certification should also be able to prepare intravenous medications.
- Package and label prescriptions. Pharmacy technicians should also know how to pre-package drugs and take note of expiration date restrictions.
- Other duties. Depending on the state, pharmacy technicians may also take on other responsibilities as the need arises. Although they are supervised the pharmacist, they also need to step up to improve the operations of the pharmacy.
- Public information. Although pharmacy technicians cannot perform patient counselling, they can disseminate public health information to patients and other healthcare professionals.
- Supervise other pharmacy staff. Other auxiliary pharmacy staffs such as those in maintenance and pharmacy assistants are under the supervision of the pharmacy technician, with the guidance of the pharmacist in charge.
- Collaborate with pharmacists. As they form an essential part of double checks that are implemented in pharmacies, their attention to detail can be useful to the pharmacists when they notice possible drug interactions or allergic reactions with certain medicine combinations or with regard to the patient’s history on file.
Pharmacy technicians have reported having a median salary of at least USD 14.10 per hour in 2012, according to the latest Bureau of Labour Statistics. This position has been predicted to increase by 30 per cent within the next decade as the demand for pharmacy services increases with the improvement of life expectancy.