Pharmacy Tech Job Description:
As a pharmacy technician, I perform most, if not all, of the "technical" duties in the pharmacy. I answer the telephone, greet patients and gather all of their PHI, or "personal health information," which, among other things, includes their name, address, medical history and insurance. I type prescriptions into the computer, count and label prescriptions, and manage inventory.
During a typical day (though most days are anything but "typical"), I work on prescriptions that were called in overnight, take in the orders, assess inventory levels and order products for the next day. Of course, besides the official "technician duties," I am also expected to know where the patio furniture is, or know off the top of my head how much a particular item costs. (Just kidding…well, sort of.)
How did you climb the pharmacy technician career ladder?
I started at Target as a cashier at the front end, where my primary duty was asking if you want a credit card. When one of the pharmacy technicians went on maternity leave, I was asked to help out at the pharmacy, which was my first exposure to what actually happens in a pharmacy. After a while, I decided that I wanted to be more than a cashier.
So, I applied for a pharmacy technician program at a local tech school. After a very intense seven months—spent memorizing drug names and indications, as well as learning how to compound creams and liquid medications—I earned my Pharmacy Technician Certification from the PTCB. Armed with my certification, as well as a state license, I applied to work in the pharmacy. But I don't plan to stop at the technician level. I'm currently working towards pharmacy school, where, after 6 total years of school, I will earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and become a pharmacist.
During the course of your pharmacy technician duties, do you recall any humorous moments?
I think my favorite funny moment in the pharmacy was when I rang a guy out for his Viagra and condoms, and the total came to $69.69. I thought, "How prophetic."
Then there are my favorite (not) people in the world: the druggies. They're the ones that know the difference between the various brands of generic Percocet, will pester you for their Vicodin refills two weeks early every time and always seem to have accidentally spilled their Xanax down the sink (which they only tell me after I call them on getting the refill too early.) Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they're a little scary, but they're always memorable.
What are the differences between a pharmacist and a certified pharmacy technician?
Essentially, the pharmacist is responsible for all of the "clinical" duties in a pharmacy, such as the Drug Utilization Review (making sure the prescription doesn't interact with another medication or condition the patient has), as well as doing the final check on a prescription before it is given to the patient. (This is where a lot of potential errors are caught.)
The pharmacist is also the only person allowed to take new prescriptions over the phone, though technicians are usually allowed to take refills. Pharmacists are also responsible for counseling patients regarding their medications or other questions the patient may have. Technicians, however, are not allowed to do anything that requires medical judgment.
What is the job oulook for pharmacy technician professionals?
The pharmacy technician profession is growing just as rapidly as the pharmacy industry. As pharmacists are taking on more and more responsibilities in managing patient therapy, technicians are being called upon to perform duties that were once in the sole domain of the pharmacist. State Boards of Pharmacy are beginning to realize that technicians need to be able to do more than just count pills, and are requiring a higher level of education and training.
If you're interested in becoming a certified pharmacy technician, my advice is simple: be prepared to think on your feet. The pharmacy is a very fast-paced environment where a simple mistake can cause serious injury or even death. Pay attention, don't rush, and you will be fine.
What factors can affect a pharmacy technician salary?
A pharmacy technician salary depends a lot on the setting in which you work. Also, certification generally gets you at least an extra dollar. Hospital technicians tend to make more, with the higher pharmacy tech wages going to those that know how to prepare IV medications and/or work with chemotherapy drugs. Basically, the more you know and the more you can do, the higher your pharmacy technician salary. But, I guess it's that way in any industry, come to think of it.
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