Pharmacy Technician Resources

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The aging of baby boomers and the Affordable Healthcare Act have resulted in more people seeking healthcare than before. As the medical profession grows, the need for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will experience a corresponding increase. What is a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy Technicians Assist Pharmacists.

That may sound simplistic, but it is the best definition of the position. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for receiving prescriptions from the patients or from healthcare providers and checking their accuracy. They also count out pills, fill vials and label them and file the information on the patient record. The technicians work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. Many technicians are responsible for making sure the pharmacy gets paid as well. That entails filing insurance forms and working with insurance companies besides contact with patients paying directly. Technicians enter data, including pharmacists’ notes, into the computer. On the more mundane side, pharmacist technicians stock the pharmacy with bottles, lids, bags and other supplies. They answer the phones and may even run the cash registers. They are not responsible for answering questions about medications or general health; these are referred to the pharmacist.

Pharmacy Technicians Work in Clean, Well-lighted Facilities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 3/4 of employed technicians work in retail establishments like grocery stores and drug stores. Of the remaining technicians, 16 percent work in hospitals. They can also be found in long term care facilities, corrections facilities and in the military. The work requires long hours on your feet. Technicians also have to lift heavy boxes of supplies from high shelves and use stepladders. Pharmacy technicians work the same hours as pharmacists, including evenings, nights and holidays. Also, because some pharmacies are open twenty-four hours a day, technicians may work odd shifts. As pharmacy technicians gain experience and seniority, they may gain some control over their shifts. Technicians work with sick people and are exposed to many illnesses. The positive aspect of this is that technicians can develop immunity to things like influenza and colds. Pharmacy clients are often not in agreeable moods because they are not feeling well. Technicians must sometimes accommodate rude and offensive behavior.

Pharmacy Technicians Must Have a High School Education.

A GED certificate is acceptable as well. Although a college degree is not needed, most states require certification. The two main certifying agencies are The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. In addition, states differ in the educational requirements of certification. Some accept on-the-job training while many demand some education at a post-secondary level, though not necessarily a degree. Most states also require some work experience in pharmacies before certification. This can be satisfied by “externships” offered by many schools in conjunction with pharmacies (like the ones available through CVS Pharmacies). Math and science are vital in pharmacy aide classes. Other courses include
• Pharmacy administration
• Pharmaceutical calculations
• Pharmacology
• Anatomy and physiology
• Health care systems
• Nutrition
• Digestive, respiratory and reproductive systems
Classes also stress communication and customer service skills. Students are taught the laws governing pharmacies, both federal and state, and get an understanding of the HIPAA privacy regulations. Many schools offer online classes, but the hands-on aspect must be accomplished at a pharmacy. Fees average about $2000 for the nine to ten month program.

The Job Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians is Good.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics says the growth rate for the medical profession as a whole is about 22 percent but the rate for pharmacy technicians is 31 percent. The median salary for a technician is $29, 320.
A career as a pharmacy technician allows you to be involved in the health care field without extensive patient contact. The working conditions are good and the educational requirements are not extensive. People seeing a career in this field should have an aptitude for math and science, and possess “people skills.” They should also have adaptive schedules. The short time needed to gain the education to pass the certification exam is another reason to consider a career as a pharmacy technician.