The primary duty of all pharmacy technicians is receiving prescriptions and filling them under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. These technicians count pills and measure liquids, mix liquid solutions, prepare creams and ointments, and place them in designated containers. About 75 percent of pharmacy technicians work in a retail setting such as a large chain drugstore or a department store pharmacy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but other types of pharmacy technician jobs are available as well.
Pharmacy technicians working in a retail setting receive prescriptions when doctors phone or e-mail them in, or when customers bring the prescription to the store. The techs retrieve medications from storage areas and fill the prescriptions. They also enter patient data on the computer, print labels, price the containers and include instructions in the bag. Additional duties include tracking inventory and ordering new supplies when needed. These jobs tend to involve a great deal of personal contact with a wide variety of people.
Hospitals and Nursing Facilities
Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and long-term care facilities fill prescriptions and may deliver the medications each day to patients, or to nurses to administer. They also record prescription information on patient charts. Additionally, these techs fill full prescriptions for patients who will be leaving the facility. Especially in nursing facilities, the positions may involve regular interaction with the same patients for lengthy time frames.
Pharmacy technicians working in a mail-order business fill prescriptions sent by mail or online from customers. These customers may be people with continuous refill orders for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as they can buy drugs from a mail-order facility at a significant discount. These techs do not have personal contact with clients and patients, although their job may involve verifying prescriptions with the health care practitioner.
Some pharmacy technicians specialize in chemotherapy medications. These techs typically work in hospitals, where they mix intravenous (IV) chemotherapy preparations. They place an information label on each syringe or IV bag, and write the number of milliliters of the medication on the container as well. Chemotherapy pharmacy technicians also fill prescriptions for patients to take home in tablet, capsule or liquid form. The technicians maintain patient computer records, track inventory and order supplies as needed. They work as part of a medical team and may be expected to assist doctors, nurses and other staff members.
Nuclear pharmacy technicians hold advanced positions that require extra specialized training. They work under the supervision of a nuclear pharmacist, creating compounds for diagnostic and therapeutic use by nuclear medicine and radiology departments in hospitals and clinics. The technician places these solutions in a syringe or vial in individual or multi-dose packages, and dispenses products to the health care practitioner.
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