Pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling all aspects of the prescription fulfillment process and assisting the pharmacist with day-to-day operations. Aspiring pharmacy techs can complete a one-year diploma or certification program at a pharmacy technician school or a two-year associate degree program. This career guide provides in-depth information about pharmacy technician training, careers and job opportunities in this fast-growing field.
A pharmacy technician is a health care provider who performs pharmacy-related functions, generally working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations (usually in community, retail, and hospital pharmacies), but can also work for long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, third-party insurance companies, computer software companies, or in government or teaching. Job duties include dispensing prescription drugs and other medical devices to patients and instructing on their use. They may also perform administrative duties in pharmaceutical practice, such as reviewing prescription requests with doctor's offices and insurance companies to ensure correct medications are provided and payment is received.
Although technicians have made great strides in their profession, these advancements have slowed primarily because of inconsistent state requirements and a lack of formal, standardized education for pharmacy technicians. Forty-five states and Washington, DC, have regulations establishing certification, licensure, or registration requirements for technicians, but these requirements vary from state to state. As of January 2017, just 24 of those states and the District of Columbia required national certification.3
Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They also may review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.
1. Become a CVPP. When you become a certified veterinary pain practitioner (CVPP), your hospital benefits from a trained and well-educated technician in the field of pain management. While most hospitals are now practicing higher levels of pain control, there’s still much we can do to ensure our patients receive the highest level of pain management possible. (Check out the CVC for great continuing education on pain management topics.)
In addition, many states are updating the rules and regulations concerning permitted technician duties. For example, the Idaho Board of Pharmacy recently updated its rules to allow certified pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations, clarify and transfer prescriptions, and take verbal orders, as long as key requirements—national certification and proper training—are met.8
There are many scopes of the workplace for the Certified Pharmacy Technician. In a retail setting, a CPhT works under the direct supervision of a pharmacist who dispenses prescription medication (tablets, capsules, gels, ointment, creams, suspensions, injections, and inhalation medications), and must be familiar with over-the-counter areas as well as third party insurance billing processes. In an inpatient setting, the CPhT works throughout the hospital, packing and dispensing medications in satellite pharmacies and to the various nursing units; compounding intravenous medication while using aseptic technique; narcotic medication dispensing and inventorial procedures; as well as documenting patients' weight, height, drug allergies and other needed information in medication records.
Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists, who must review prescriptions before they are given to patients. In most states, technicians can compound or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. Technicians also may need to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders.
2. Become a technician specialist. Whether you focus on clinical practice or specialize in a more focused area like surgery, dentistry or rehabilitation, you can bring knowledge and exceptional skills to general practice. Along with standardizing our title to registered veterinary nurse, specialties help us take our careers to the next level by demonstrating our commitment to high-quality medicine, patient health and nursing. You can learn more about the specialty options here or here.
Pharmacy technicians who work in retail or mail-order pharmacies have various responsibilities, depending on state rules and regulations. Technicians receive written prescription requests from patients and perform medication reconciliation. They also may receive prescriptions sent electronically from doctors’ offices, and in some states they are permitted to process requests by phone. They must verify that the information on the prescription is complete and accurate. To prepare the prescription, technicians retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication. Then they prepare the prescription labels, select the type of container, and affix the prescription and auxiliary labels to the container. Once the prescription is filled, technicians price and file the prescription, which must be checked by a pharmacist before it is given to the patient. Technicians may establish and maintain patient profiles, as well as prepare insurance claim forms. Technicians always refer any questions regarding prescriptions, drug information, or health matters to a pharmacist.
Angela Loo is an Administrative Healthcare Professional and Nationally Certified Pharmacy Technician with over 12 years of experience in Pharmacy. She holds a Master’s Degree in Business, a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration, and an Associate of Science degree. A PCC Alum, during her time as a student at PCC’s Sylvania Campus Angela was part of PCC’s ROOTS Program, and was honored to receive both the PCC Foundation Scholarship and Coca-Cola Scholarship Foundation awards. She is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Beta Delta honor societies.
Employment of agricultural and food technicians is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand will continue for agricultural research into areas such as the effects of population growth, increased demand for water resources, harm from pests and pathogens, changes in climate and weather patterns, and demand for agricultural products, such as biofuels.