The Pharmacy Technician at work and the job outlook
The role of the Pharmacy Technician varies from state to state and according to policies of the hiring institution. State boards of Pharmacy are increasingly recognizing the role of technicians in Pharmacy. Most Pharmacy Technicians do the manual labor for the pharmacist. Their scope of practice can include acting as liaison with nursing, compounding, patient counseling, computer order entry, purchasing, billing, specialized contract compliance or computer work, equipment maintenance, delivery, supervising other techs, drawing up chemotherapy in the IV room, and much more.
Current Pharmacy Tech salaries range from $9 to $20+ per hour, depending on specialized abilities, institutional size, experience, etc. There are currently approximately 250,000 Pharmacy Technicians in the United States, and the field is projected to grow by as much as 36% by 2010, particularly as more and more Pharmacists/Pharm Ds are performing at a higher level, leaving their former duties to be fulfilled by technicians. Additionally, more and more institutions are hiring only certified Pharmacy Technicians, or graduates of accredited programs. Successful Pharmacy Technicians in the region have been employed in more advanced roles as contract compliance specialists, computer systems administrators (both regular computer systems and specialized pharmacy systems for drug dispensing), purchasing agents, pharmaceutical sales reps, drug wholesaler customer service managers, and pharmacy tech educators.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. This exam is voluntary in most States and displays the competency of the individual to act as a Pharmacy Technician. However, more states and employers are requiring certification as reliance on Pharmacy Technicians grows. Eligible candidates must have a high school diploma or GED and no felony convictions, and those who pass the exam earn the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). The exam is offered several times per year at various locations nationally. Employers, often pharmacists, know that individuals who pass the exam have a standardized body of knowledge and skills. Many employers will also reimburse the costs of the exam as an incentive for certification.*
Certified technicians must be recertified every 2 years. Technicians must complete 20 contact hours of pharmacy-related topics within the 2-year certification period to become eligible for recertification. Contact hours are awarded for on-the-job training, attending lectures, and college coursework. At least 1 contact hour must be in pharmacy law. Contact hours can be earned from several different sources, including pharmacy associations, pharmacy colleges, and pharmacy technician training programs. Up to 10 contact hours can be earned when the technician is employed under the direct supervision and instruction of a pharmacist.*
Successful pharmacy technicians are alert, observant, organized, dedicated, and responsible. They should be willing and able to take directions. They must enjoy precise work—details are sometimes a matter of life and death. Although a pharmacist must check and approve all their work, they should be able to work on their own without constant instruction from the pharmacist. Candidates interested in becoming pharmacy technicians cannot have prior records of drug or substance abuse.*
Strong interpersonal and communication skills are needed because there is a lot of interaction with patients, coworkers, and healthcare professionals. Teamwork is very important because technicians are often required to work with pharmacists, aides, and other technicians.*
The successful Pharmacy Technician Graduate: knowledge, skills, and personal qualifications
The successful Pharmacy Technician will be a certified tech by the time of graduation, and will have mastered compounding, pharmaceutical calculations, and be conversant with the top 200 drugs in the United States. They will know the categories of drugs, what is involved with purchasing drugs, and what happens when a drug is recalled. Additionally, they will be adept at using or learning Pharmacy software and equipment, and will know pertinent legal issues, confidentiality laws, and how their role relates to other health care professionals.
They will be well-versed in the value of good hygiene for self and workplace, and will have a strong respect and compassion for patients.
The successful graduate will have a prepared resume and be looking ahead to the next level of employment, will have experience with interviews and presentation of their skills, and will know appropriate dress and conduct for interviews and the workplace. They will have a command of all areas of Pharmacy practice, and will have experience in retail, hospital, and home health settings. The successful graduate will be able to multi-task without distraction, will know when to seek help, and will be able to work under a variety of physical and social conditions, with a variety of people, and with more than one “boss”.Pharmacy Technology: certificate, associate degree, or Pharmacy School
Students may utilize this program in a variety of ways:
- Complete an associate degree by taking two semesters of core courses, including English, math, humanities, science; followed by two semesters of Pharmacy Technology courses;
- Complete the associate degree with intention of applying to Pharmacy School upon completion of the degree, with heavy emphasis on math, physics, chemistry and biology (Note: the Pharmacy technology courses would count only as electives for pre-Pharmacy)
- Take the two semesters of Pharmacy technology courses so that they can begin working part-time while finishing the core courses for the Associate Degree;
** All graduates will receive job placement assistance if desired, and those who wish to work part-time in a Pharmacy while in school will receive assistance with placement.Pharmacy Technology coursework
Formal pharmacy technician education programs require classroom and laboratory work in a variety of areas, including medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy recordkeeping, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also are required to learn medication names, actions, uses, and doses. Many training programs include internships, in which students gain hands-on experience in actual pharmacies. Students receive a diploma, a certificate, or an associate degree, depending on the program.*
Pharmacy technology coursework is composed of two semesters, with a total of 34 credit hours. The second semester involves working two days per week in an experiential setting. Courses are primarily offered between 10am and 2pm, with one lab until 3pm one day per week.
National Pharmacy Technician Association
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (tech division)
Kentucky Society of Health-System Pharmacists (tech division)
Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists
American Pharmacists Association
Bureau of Labor and Statistics
Kentucky Hospital Association-List of Hospitalswww.bls.gov