The main responsibility of a pharmacy technician is to help licensed pharmacists fill out prescription requests that come from hospitals, physicians, nurses, and from patients themselves. This task includes retrieving prescription orders, counting, measuring, weighing and pouring medications, mixing medications, selecting proper prescription containers, and creating prescription labels. Afterwards, a licensed pharmacist checks the completed prescription before it is given to the patient.
Aside from filling out prescriptions, the technician assists in the pharmacy’s day-to-day operations and performs non-medication-related functions, such as preparing insurance claim forms, maintaining files, attending to cash register transactions, taking inventory of over-the-counter medications and taking calls.
Pharmacy technicians need to have proper training for the job. Aspiring technicians have to enroll in and complete pharmacy technician training courses. There are schools that offer associate-level degrees; others offer certificates and diplomas for degree holders who wish to be employed as technicians. The best training opportunity they can get comes from on-the-job training in pharmacies or within the pharmaceutical industry.
There are training sessions that prepare students for certification as pharmacy technicians. These are available from pharmacy schools, community colleges, hospital and military career colleges and pharmacy associations. The sessions consist of both classroom and laboratory classes and may include an internship period where students learn hands-on the techniques and skills associated with the job. They may also study online through a variety of online course training programs. At the end of the training, the students receive a diploma, a certificate, or an Associate’s degree, and they also become entitled to take the National Pharmacy Certification Examination.
Formal pharmacy technician education programs require classroom and laboratory work in the areas of medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy record keeping, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy law and ethics. Aspiring technicians are required to learn the names of medications and their actions, uses, and doses.
Pharmacy tech certificate programs provide the basic skills needed for the job and usually take less than a year to complete. The only requirement is a high school diploma. Primary technician diploma programs are longer and are designed to add to the stock knowledge gained from the initial certification and prepare the graduates for certification exams. A pharmacy technician associate’s degree program takes around two years to complete and provides a broader scope of training in the medical fields, as well as focused training in pharmacy practice.
Pharmacy techs are not confined to pharmacies; they can also be found in hospitals, medical stores, health and personal care stores, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This is a profession that is best suited for self-starters, for people who are easily motivated and are science and math-oriented. It’s also a job that requires people skills because in retail pharmacy, the people in the business talk to customers all day long. In addition, since this a job in the area of health care, the pharmacy technician has to be willing to work flexible hours, including holidays and rest days.
There is opportunity for growth in this kind of a career. As many as 50 pharmacy training schools have been listed as of 2008; the number is growing as opportunities for employment continue to be very strong. People will always need medical care and attention; therefore, there will always be a strong demand for any role that is played in the hospital setting, e.g. laboratory technician, nurse, surgeon. The wealth of opportunities is there; go after it.