Exploring the career path of a Pharmacy Technician unveils a complex tapestry of advantages, disadvantages, rewards, and challenges.
These front-line healthcare professionals are integral in ensuring that pharmacies are dispensing medication and providing patient education in accordance with healthcare rules, regulations, and standards.
By examining all sides of the equation, aspiring techs can gain insight into the career and gain a comprehensive understanding of what the role requires.
What is a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy Technicians are healthcare professionals who work alongside Pharmacists and other pharmacy staff members.
Their primary role surrounds preparing medications according to written prescription instructions and dispensing them to the patients for whom they were prescribed.
They also spend time on patient education and explaining the risks and benefits of prescriptions to pharmacy customers.
Other pharmacy-related duties technicians take on include some of the following.
Pharmacy Technician Duties
Preparation of Prescribed Medication: Technicians receive copies of prescriptions electronically or on paper.
Electronic health tech skills are required to access and manipulate touchless systems.
They retrieve the relevant medicines from the pharmacy shelves after verifying the authenticity of prescriptions.
Dispensing Prescribed Medication: A primary component of a Pharmacy Tech’s job is to dispense medication to the correct patient.
They use computerized systems, ID verification, and other healthcare technology to match correct prescriptions to pharmacy customers.
Processing Prescription Orders: They use tools like measuring spoons, graduated cylinders, and compounding equipment to prepare and process medications before dispensing them to waiting patients.
Interacting with Patients: Front-line techs engage with pharmacy customers as their first point of contact.
They set expectations for how long patients can expect to wait for their prescriptions, how much insurance is available, and their remaining copayments.
Patient Education: Pharm Techs answer frequently asked patient questions and explain dosages, expected interactions, and the possible side effects of the medications they dispense to patients and their families.
Other Duties as Assigned: Pharmacists and Senior pharmacy staff may assign other duties to Pharmacy Technicians in support of short-staffed pharmacies or in preparation for taking on more challenging roles in the pharmacy.
What Other Names Do Pharmacy Technicians Go By?
- Pharmacy Techs
- Certified Pharmacy Technicians – CPhTs
Where Do Pharmacy Technicians Work?
- Retail Pharmacies
- Hospital Pharmacies
- Long-Term Care Facilities
- Mail-Order Pharmacies
- Pharmaceutical Companies
- Health Clinics
- Government Agencies
- Academic Institutions
Pros of Being a Pharmacy Technician
Being a Pharmacy Tech means playing an integral role in ensuring patients receive accurately prescribed medication.
Today’s techs use a blend of technical skills, attention to detail, and customer service techniques to legally dispense prescribed drugs and support Pharmacists with various tasks around pharmacies.
People who love working as Pharmacy Techs report some of the following pros.
Pro #1. – Pharmacy Technicians Make Meaningful Contributions to the American Healthcare System
Today’s Pharm Techs are integral components of the healthcare services industry.
They operate in conjunction with hospitals, medical facilities, and medical providers to dispense life-saving medication.
They help lead Pharmacists prepare and dispense medication for pain relief, and other pharmacy services.
Their contributions have a significant impact on the American healthcare system, which directly contributes to the health and well-being of its citizens.
Pro #2. – Techs Regularly Report Excellent Job Growth and Stability
The demand for skilled and certified Pharm Techs is expected to remain steady due to an aging population, novel new diseases and infections, and advances in healthcare.
America’s Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this career to grow about as fast as the average for all other occupations for which they keep data.
Pro #3. – Pharmacies Open Gateways to Other Healthcare Careers
Many Pharmacy Techs stay on for years to gain on-the-job experience and move on to higher-paying or more complex medical careers.
Working as a technician in a pharmacy is an excellent way for new techs to prepare to become pharmacists when they decide to advance their careers.
They can also branch off as specialty pharmacists or Pharmacy Educators in hospitals and other medical facilities where their skills are needed.
Pro #4. – Many Techs Report High Levels of Job Satisfaction
Research studies done by the National Library of Medicine and similar online reports say most Pharmacy Technicians report high levels of career satisfaction.
They enjoy working in their chosen environments and profoundly impacting America’s healthcare system for competitive and high-level salaries.
Pro #5. – Pharmacy Techs Work in a Highly Respected Profession
Working as a Pharmacy Technician is one of the most respected positions in the medical field.
They play a crucial role in our healthcare systems and collaborate with other healthcare professionals like nurses, doctors, and nurse practitioners.
They collaborate with medication prescribers to dispense the correct type, quantity, and dosage of medications to patients under medical providers’ care.
Cons of Being a Pharmacy Technician
While many of America’s Pharm Techs report that they love their jobs, others report some downsides.
Aside from demanding workloads, technicians in busy settings can encounter irate and impatient customers or accidentally dispense the wrong medication, which can have dire consequences.
Following are a few potential downsides of working as a Pharmacy Tech in today’s fast-paced pharmacies.
Con #1. – Pharmacies Can Experience Incredibly High Workloads
America’s Pharmacy Technicians work within a fast-paced healthcare system that operates 24 hours a day.
Working in a high-volume environment means they sometimes have incredibly high workloads that can lead to working long hours with little downtime.
They work under pressure and must stay calm, and pay close attention to minute details when packaging and dispensing prescription medications.
There is little room for error when working as a Pharm Tech!
Con #2. – Working Under Supervision = Limited Autonomy
Trained individuals who work under the direct supervision of Pharmacists have limited autonomy in doing their jobs.
They must adhere to the directions of Pharmacists and senior pharmacy staff, which leaves little room for empowerment and decision-making autonomy on the job.
Con #3. – Handling Irate Patients Can Lead to Stressful Situations
Many of the patients Pharm Techs serve are ailing, in pain, and suffering from chronic or debilitating illnesses.
Dealing with sick patients with questions or concerns about their medications can lead to tense encounters and stressful situations.
Upset patients can become irate if their prescriptions aren’t ready on time or if a specific question about their medication remains unanswered while swamped technicians prepare high volumes of medicines.
Con #4. – Medication Errors Have Serious Consequences
Despite taking the relevant precautions and following directions from Pharmacists and senior staff, medication errors can happen.
Dispensing the incorrect dosage, type, or quantity of medications can profoundly impact patient health and lead to severe consequences for techs who dispense the wrong medication.
Con #5. – Many Technicians Report Job Burnout
While many active techs report high levels of job satisfaction, others report job burnout after working for years in the field.
Demanding workloads, repetitive tasks, and dispensing high volumes of medication are all key factors that can lead to increased stress levels, job dissatisfaction, and burnout.
10 Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacy Technician – Summary Table
|Pros of Being a Pharmacy Technician||Cons of Being a Pharmacy Technician|
|Pro #1. - Pharmacy Technicians Make Meaningful Contributions to the American Healthcare System||Con #1. - Pharmacies Can Experience Incredibly High Workloads|
|Pro #2. - Techs Regularly Report Excellent Job Growth and Stability||Con #2. - Working Under Supervision = Limited Autonomy|
|Pro #3. - Pharmacies Open Gateways to Other Healthcare Careers||Con #3. - Handling Irate Patients Can Lead to Stressful Situations|
|Pro #4. - Many Techs Report High Levels of Job Satisfaction||Con #4. - Medication Errors Have Serious Consequences|
|Pro #5. - Pharmacy Techs Work in a Highly Respected Profession||Con #5. - Many Technicians Report Job Burnout|
Should You Become a Pharmacy Technician?
It is important to note that many Pharmacy Techs report high job satisfaction levels despite this career’s challenges.
If you’re thinking about changing your career or starting your career as a Pharmacy Tech, the first thing to do is learn about the profession and the required skills.
Following are examples of some of the skills needed to work as an entry-level Pharmacy Technician in most U.S. states.
Required Skills for Prospective Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy Techs spend numerous hours calculating dosages, compounding medications, and handling prescription inventory.
Constant use of weights and measures in packaging and dispensing prescriptions means techs should have a high mathematical aptitude.
Understanding the nature of the conditions and illnesses for which medications are prescribed is another crucial skill today’s technicians require.
They must become familiar with commonly used medical terminology and the names and uses of potential medicines.
Pharmacy Technicians take on a wide variety of different tasks to carry out their daily duties.
Multitasking requires high-level organization skills for prescription management, customer service, inventory management, and continuing education for certification courses.
Customer Service Skills
Today’s techs work side-by-side with Pharmacists and other pharmacy staff to dispense medicine.
They also act as front-line employees who directly engage with customers as their first point of contact with pharmacies.
Prospective technicians should have excellent customer service and problem-solving skills.
Pharmacy Technician Education or Certification
While most entry-level positions only require on-the-job training, technicians who want to advance their careers will eventually need to get formal training or state certification.
One More Thing
You can learn more about certification requirements and programs by visiting the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association’s certification websites.
Now that you know what a day in the life of a Pharmacy Technician could look like, do you feel like this is the career for you?
If so, take the next step by learning more about the profession and taking advantage of online classes or Pharmacy Technician programs offered by your local college, university, workforce development agency, or vocational center!