What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Find out what pharmacy technicians do on a daily basis, including both customer-facing duties and behind-the-scenes tasks.

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Introduction

A pharmacy technician is a member of the health care team who works under the supervision of a pharmacist to dispense medications and provide information to patients. Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings, including community pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.

The responsibilities of a pharmacy technician vary by state but may include counting and measuring medications, preparing prescriptions for patients, entering patient medical information into computer systems, verifying insurance coverage, and assisting pharmacists with customer service.

Duties and Responsibilities

A pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a pharmacist and is responsible for various tasks related to the preparation and distribution of medications. They may also be responsible for answering patient questions, maintaining records, and stocking shelves. Let’s take a closer look at the duties and responsibilities of a pharmacy technician.

Interpreting and Transcribing Physician Orders

One of the most important duties of a pharmacy technician is interpreting and transcribing physician orders. This involves understanding the meaning of prescriptions and other medical orders, and then accurately recording them in the pharmacy’s system. This process is critical to ensuring that patients receive the correct medications.

Maintaining Patient Profiles

One of the most important duties of a pharmacy technician is maintaining patient profiles. This involves creating and updating files that contain important information about each patient, such as their medical history, medications they are taking, and allergies they may have. This information is used by the pharmacist to ensure that each patient receives the medication that is best for them.

Compounding and Dispensing Medications

A pharmacy technician works under the direct supervision of a pharmacist and is responsible for various tasks related to the preparation and distribution of medications. In most cases, the pharmacy technician is responsible for preparing and dispensing medications, as well as maintaining records of all drugs dispensed.

In some states, pharmacy technicians may be allowed to compound medications. Compounding is the process of combining two or more drugs to create a custom medication. For example, a pharmacy technician may be asked to compound a medication for a patient who is allergic to one of the ingredients in a standard medication.

Pharmacy technicians also have duties related to customer service. They may be responsible for answering phone calls from patients, taking prescription orders, and resolving customer questions and concerns. In some cases, they may also be responsible for operating the cash register and accepting payments.

Counseling Patients

An important duty of pharmacy technicians is counseling patients on the use of their medications. This may include providing instruction on how to take a medication, what type of food or drink to avoid while taking the medication, what side effects may occur, and how to deal with those side effects. It is important for pharmacy technicians to be clear and concise when providing this instruction so that patients can understand and follow their medication regimen.

Education and Training

Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist and perform many of the same duties as pharmacists. They must complete a postsecondary education program and pass a national certification exam to become licensed. Education and training requirements for pharmacy technicians vary by state.

Pharmacy Technician Programs

Most pharmacy technicians learn their skills on the job. However, some start out by completing a postsecondary education program in pharmacy technology. These programs are typically offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and technical schools. Some states require that pharmacy technicians complete an accredited program and become certified before they can work.

While not required, certification may show employers that you are committed to your career and have the skills necessary to be a successful pharmacy technician. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcare Association (NHA) offer certification for pharmacy technicians. To earn certification, you must pass an exam.

Some states also have their own certification programs for pharmacy technicians. For example, California requires pharmacy technicians to complete the California Pharmacy Technician Exam (CPT). Check with your state board of Pharmacy for requirements in your state.

Certification

Employers often prefer to hire certified pharmacy technicians. To become certified, candidates must usually complete a formal training program and pass an exam. The certification process may vary slightly according to the state in which the candidate works.

There are several organizations that offer certification exams for pharmacy technicians, including the National Healthcare Association and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Candidates who pass either of these exams earn the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).

Some states may have additional requirements for certification, such as completion of an internship or passage of a state-specific exam. Once certified, pharmacy technicians must periodically renew their credential by completing continuing education credits or retake the certification exam.

Employment Outlook

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $32,700 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,600.

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More pharmacists are expected to retire over the next decade, creating opportunities for pharmacy technicians to fill vacant positions.

Salary and Job Growth

The median annual salary for pharmacy technicians was $32,140 in May 2018.1 The lowest 10% earned less than $21,290, and the highest 10% earned more than $47,180. Most pharmacy technicians work in grocery stores, drugstores, or hospitals. Some are employed in nursing homes, pharmaceutical wholesalers, mail-order pharmacies, or the armed forces.

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.2 Job prospects should be best for those who have completed formal education programs in pharmacy technology and have passed national certification exams.

Conclusion

In conclusion, pharmacy technicians play an important role in the healthcare industry by assisting pharmacists with dispensing medication and providing customer service. They must be detail-oriented and able to follow instructions carefully, as well as have good communication and math skills. Although most states do not require certification, completing a certified training program can give individuals a competitive edge when seeking employment.

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