A pharmacy technician assists a pharmacist by performing many administrative and routine tasks, giving the pharmacist more time for direct consultation with patients and customers. Pharmacy technicians' work is supervised by licensed pharmacists.
What a Pharmacy Technician Does
Pharmacy technician duties vary according to whether they work in a retail environment or in a hospital or nursing home setting. State regulations also govern exactly what pharmacy technicians can do; different states have different regulations.
In a retail environment, technicians receive prescription orders from customers or a doctor's office and review them for accuracy. They prepare the orders by counting out pills, measuring medication quantities, sometimes mixing medications, and packaging and labeling the medicine. Each order is checked over by a pharmacist before it is dispensed to the customer. Technicians assist customers in the store, but specific questions regarding drug or prescription information and health advice are directed to the pharmacist. Technicians also perform behind-the-scenes work such as maintaining patient records, handling insurance claims, ordering inventory and keeping the pharmacy shelves stocked.
Pharmacy technicians work somewhat differently in hospitals and assisted living facilities. In addition to processing and filling prescription orders, they must also read and update patient charts. They may prepare a patient's entire day's dosages of medication at one time. As with the retail setting, all medications prepared by a pharmacy technician are reviewed by a pharmacist before they go to the patient.
Being a pharmacy technician requires the ability to be on one's feet for most of the day, possibly lifting boxes or climbing ladders to retrieve stock. Pharmacy technicians also need customer service expertise, flexibility, organization and an eye for detail.
Education and Experience Needed
As of 2009, there is no uniform national requirement for pharmacy technician training. Some states and employers require that technicians take a certification program or other type of higher education; others train technicians on the job. Two organizations, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, run nationally recognized certification programs. Other forms of technician schooling include colleges, vocational or technical schools, and training from a hospital or the military.
Aside from specialized pharmacy technician training, workers are typically required to have a high school diploma or GED, to have no felony convictions within a certain period of time, and to have no prior record of substance abuse.
Where Pharmacy Technicians Work
About 71 percent of technicians work in a retail setting--dedicated pharmacies, pharmacies located in grocery or department stores, and prescription retailers.
As of May 2008, the median hourly wage for a pharmacy technician was $13.32. Wages can depend on whether a technician is certified (those with more specialized training may earn more, depending on the employer) and the hours that she works (shift differentials).
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