What do Pharmacy Technicians do?
Job descriptions for pharmacy technicians and assistants.
Have you been considering a career in healthcare? It is an ever-growing industry and many people exploring the idea quickly become curious about pharmacy. So, I've asked my good friend Sean Parsons to explain what pharmacy technicians do, and the various environments they work in. Enjoy !
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by Sean E. Parsons, CPhT
Today, pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings and perform numerous jobs, making them a vital part of the healthcare team.
They work in community pharmacies (pharmacy chains and independents), hospitals, nuclear pharmacy, health insurance companies, compounding pharmacies, home-infusion companies, long-term care facilities, clinics, specialty pharmacies working with high priced drugs for rare diseases, investigational drug services, the various branches of the military, pharmacoinformatics for technology companies, and even in education at technical schools and colleges.
The responsibilities of pharmacy techs range a great deal depending on the practice setting, but they may include:
- Prescription intake including e-prescribing, faxes, and patients walking in with their prescription in hand
- Gathering patient data including drug and disease information, name, address and contact information, allergy information, and insurance information
- Prescription translation because we all love bad hand-writing, Greek words, and Latin abbreviations
- Performing necessary calculations ranging from days' supply and adjusting refills/short-fills to verifying the proper dosage of chemotherapy drugs and other complex treatment regimens
- Data entry including information about the patient, the prescriber, the third-party payor, prescription information, and drug information
- Filling prescriptions, including labeling and packaging the medication
- Dispensing the filled prescription and collect necessary payments
- Filing prescription forms in an appropriate manner to allow for easy retrieval during audits
- Inventory management including purchasing, rotating stock, and managing short-dated/expired medications
- Non-sterile compounding including preparing oral medications (suspensions, solutions, tablets, capsules, lozenges, oral sprays, etc.), topical medications (powders, ointments, creams, and gels), and otic preparations
- Preparing sterile products ranging from antibiotics, to ionotropic therapy, to parenteral nutrition which may have over 20 ingredients that must be kept sterile during preparation
- Mixing hazardous drugs to prepare chemotherapy for patients
- working with radiopharmaceuticals ranging from preparing stress tests to tagging white blood cells to help find infections
- Medication delivery ranging from various hospital units, such as nursing units and operating rooms, to patient homes and physician practices
- Cart-fill/Cassette exchange which typically provide patients with a 24 hour supply of medication in hospitals and may be as long as once a month in a nursing home
- Work with automation including filling automated dispensing cabinets, using pneumatic tube systems, and automated counting devices
- Integrate and maintain databases and pharmacy automation systems
- Working directly for insurance companies assessing non-formulary requests and providing patient services
- Gathering lab work data and scheduling appointments to aid in the provision of patient counseling, medication therapy management, and immunizations
- Training staff or even teaching at a technical school or community college
Pharmacy is a growing field.
The opportunity to work as a pharmacy technician isn't just exciting because of what you can do today. It's a growing industry with new opportunities just over the horizon.
In my own career as a pharmacy technician, I've come a long ways since I first passed the certification exam in 1995 (the first year it was offered). I've done everything from processing orders, mixing IV's and chemotherapy, to rounding in the operating room during organ transplants, preparing investigational drugs to treat microbial resistant bacteria, and I've run multi-million dollar robots. I have taught classes, developed curriculum, written textbooks, developed pharmacy specific websites, and currently writing my own software and starting my own non-profit pharmacy to help the uninsured and under-insured. This is not the end of my journey, but just an interesting pause along the way for whatever else I will get to achieve in this field.
About the author:
Sean Parsons, CPhT has 12 years of experience in a
hospital setting, and eight years of experience as an instructor.
Currently, he teaches at Bidwell Training Center, Inc., owns
Parsons Printing Press, is the president of Lost and Found
Pharmacy, Inc. and has published a PTCE Certification Exam Review, which is updated for the NEW format.
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