"One of the most challenging aspects [of the job] comes down to maintaining knowledge on all the changes that occur within the field," says Mike Johnston, chairman and CEO of the National Pharmacy Technician Association. "Pharmacy practice changes on a weekly basis with new generics and new drugs." Another challenge is interacting with patients who are "not always feeling their best," he says. "The majority of your customers that you're going to be dealing with are sick – whether it be a cold or sinus infection or a much more serious, chronic condition. So it takes a lot of compassion and empathy."
Pharmacy technicians must take the lead in educating themselves on drug information and any major changes occurring in the industry. They may be required to read about drug studies, review pharmaceutical literature or produce reports about different prescription medications and dispensing activities. Since many work in busy retail drugstores or emergency rooms, they must also have strong organizational skills and be able to work in a fast-paced environment without making mistakes.
Completing a vocational or other postsecondary education program in automotive service technology is considered the best preparation for entry-level positions. Programs usually last 6 months to a year and provide intensive career preparation through classroom instruction and hands-on practice. Short-term certificate programs in a particular subject, such as brake maintenance or engine performance, are also available.
A mail-order pharmacy tech finds herself in a more office-like environment, filling prescriptions from a workstation amidst many other techs. The day of a mail-order pharmacy tech might start with meetings with pharmacists and other techs, from there, duties might include preparing compounds, maintaining the patient database, filling vials of medicine and inventory maintenance. Just because a mail-order tech is behind-the-scenes and doesn’t deal directly with the public it does not mean that their jobs are easy.
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