What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Pharmacy Technician

The pharmaceutical industry is a complex, multi-trillion dollar a year industry consisting of chemists and other scientists, engineers, doctors, researchers, regulators, environmentalists, manufacturers, advertising executives, public relations specialists, educators, sales executives, and more. This means, it takes an army to develop effective medications for the masses, but the average person does not see what goes into creating a single pill. Fortunately, by the time the millions of tiny pills, sprays, injections, and other medications reach the consumer, the most difficult tasks are complete. However, this does not mean all tasks are complete.

While the pharmacy’s objective is not to manufacture and market medications, the pharmacy is the last line of defense, so it plays a very vital role in ensuring patient safety. The pharmacy and its staff are charged with the task of making sure the exact prescribed medication makes it into the hands of the right patient. To do this, the head of the outfit—the pharmacist, must have three weapons in his arsenal: (1) a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) (2) experience, and (3) a talented team of pharmacy technicians. 

Why is the role of a pharmacy technician important? 

The tasks associated with being a pharmacy technician allow the pharmacist to focus on the tedious and oftentimes trying task of ensuring that medications are mixed and dispensed properly. The pharmacist also has to focus on three other crucial tasks: (1) reiterating the doctor’s instructions regarding medications, (2) providing any additional pertinent information, and (3) answering any questions the patient may have. Again, this ensures the safety of the patient as well as the reputation and success of the pharmacy.

What are some pharmacy technician duties?

So, what exactly does a pharmacy technician do to help the pharmacy operate like a well-oiled machine? For starters, the pharmacy technician may very well be on the frontlines, whether they work in a hospital pharmacy or a chain pharmacy. They typically greet patients/customers (hopefully with a smile), and receive prescription requests. Next, the pharmacy technician will be responsible for performing administrative tasks such as answering the phone and stocking shelves. Pharmacy technicians also label bottles and count tablets. It is important to note that all of these tasks are completed under the direct supervision of the pharmacist on duty.

Patient, pharmacy technician interaction - what’s legal? 

The duties listed above are standard in most pharmacy settings. Performing other duties, such as processing prescriptions (weighing, measuring, pouring, and mixing), will depend on state and local regulations. Pharmacy technicians may be prohibited from performing duties such as these, as well as consulting with patients about their prescriptions. If a patient has a question about medication, in the vast majority of states, the law states that the pharmacy technician must refer the patient to the pharmacist on duty. If the pharmacy technician provides inaccurate information to a patient, the pharmacy may be cited, sued, or worse—shut down. In addition, the pharmacist may lose his license, and the technician may lose his job, making it extremely difficult to obtain employment in the same field.

What are some other pharmacy technician duties? 

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of environments from retail settings to medical facilities to government agencies. In medical facility settings, some duties, typically administrative in nature, will vary. Depending on the size (and type) of the medical facility, pharmacy technicians may perform some of the same duties as pharmacy aides. For example, in addition to standard duties, hospital and nursing home technicians may maintain patient profiles and records, prepare insurance forms, and deliver medications to doctors and nurses.

Between 50 and 75 percent of all pharmacy technicians work in retail settings. CVS, Walgreens, Kmart Pharmacy, Target Pharmacy, and many other chain pharmacies employ a hefty number of pharmacy technicians. In these cases, the pharmacy technician may perform one duty that has nothing to do with medications. In addition to the usual tech duties, a typical day at a chain pharmacy may involve ringing up sales of everything from beauty products and baby clothes to edibles and electronics. Fortunately, pharmacy technicians rarely have to handle returns.