Pharmacy assistant

A pharmacy assistant

Description

Pharmacy assistants perform general duties, such as stock management, serving at the cash desk, or performing administrative duties. They deal with the inventory within the pharmacy under the supervision of a pharmacist.

A pharmacy assistant typically does the following:

  • Dispenses prescription medication and other medical products to patients under direction of licensed pharmacist
  • Counts pills, labels bottles, prices, and compounds medications to prepare prescriptions for patients as directed
  • Performs administrative duties, including answering phones, receiving and inputting prescription orders, operating cash registers, and restocking inventory
  • Gathers, organises, and assesses patient information
  • Supplies patients with information and education on their prescriptions
  • Monitors prescription-filling process to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and pharmacy policies
  • Liaises with healthcare providers and patients to obtain correct prescription information
  • Answers patients’ questions about their medications under the supervision of the pharmacist
  • Takes inventory of drugs on hand and records results
  • Places orders for additional drugs as directed by the pharmacist
  • Maintains electronic patient information
  • Prepares billing information for medications
  • Completes patients’ sales transactions for purchase of prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as other pharmaceutical products

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to pharmacy assistant:

dispensing assistant
pharmacy dispensing assistant
assistant in pharmacy
pharmacy service assistant

Minimum qualifications

There are no set entry requirements, but most employers will expect good literacy, numeracy, and IT skills. They may ask for a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification, and some relevant work experience. Even where it is not specified, experience in a customer service role would be an advantage. 

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Pharmacy assistant is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Pharmacy assistant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to pharmacy assistant.

pharmacy technician
physiotherapy assistant
dental hygienist
dental technician
dental chairside assistant

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of pharmacy assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of pharmacy assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

specialist biomedical scientist
specialist pharmacist
hospital pharmacist
pharmacist
optometrist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of pharmacy assistant.

  • Hygiene in a health care setting: The procedures related to maintaining a hygienic environment within a health care setting such as hospitals and clinics. It can range from hand washing to cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment used and infection control methods.
  • Medicines: The medicines, their nomenclature and the substances used in the manufacture of medicines.
  • Medicines for self-medication: Medication which can be self-administered by individuals for psychological or physical problems. This type is sold in supermarkets and drugstores and does not require a doctors prescription. This medication mostly treats common health issues.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of pharmacy assistant.

  • Follow control of substances hazardous to health procedures: Adhere to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) procedures for activities that involve hazardous substances, such as bacteria, allergens, waste oil, paint or brake fluids that result in illness or injury.
  • Check information on prescriptions: Verify the information on prescriptions from patients or from the doctor`s office ensuring that it is complete and accurate.
  • Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
  • Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
  • Manage the logistics of medicinal products: Ensure the storage, preservation and distribution of medicinal products at the wholesale stage.
  • Communicate with customers: Respond to and communicate with customers in the most efficient and appropriate manner to enable them to access the desired products or services, or any other help they may require.
  • Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Maintain pharmaceutical records: Maintain accuracy of prescription records and inventories of medications and pharmaceutical products.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Transfer medication: Transfer medication from vials to the appropriate number of sterile, disposable syringes using aseptic techniques.
  • Operate cash point: Count the money; balance cash drawer at the end of the shift; receive payments and process payment information; use scanning equipment.
  • Take pharmaceutical inventory: Take stock of medications, chemicals, and supplies, entering the inventory data into a computer, receiving and storing incoming supplies, verifying the supplied quantities against invoices, and informing supervisors of stock needs and possible shortages.
  • Obtain healthcare user’s medical status information: Gather healthcare user information through various sources such as questioning the healthcare user, caregiver, or healthcare professional to obtain information on the patient`s health and social status, and interpreting records made by other health care professionals when appropriate.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Prepare prescription labels: Prepare prescription labels, select the type of prescription container and attach the prescription labels to the container.
  • Ensure the appropriate supply in pharmacy: Guarantee the correct distribution of the pharmacy products.
  • Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
  • Maintain adequate medication storage conditions: Maintain proper storage and security conditions for medication.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Handle petty cash: Handle petty cash for minor expenses and transactions required for the daily running of a business.
  • Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
  • Process medical insurance claims: Contact the patient`s health insurance company and submit the appropriate forms with information on the patient and treatment.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Ensure quality assurance for pharmaceutical products: Take the necessary steps to guarantee the quality of pharmaceutical products ensuring that the refrigerators/freezers are at the correct temperature and complete the appropriate documentation.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Communicate by telephone: Liaise via telephone by making and answering calls in a timely, professional and polite manner.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Check for medication expiry terms: Regularly check medication in pharmacy, wards and units, for expiry dates, replacing the expired drugs according to standard procedures.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of pharmacy assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Phytotherapy: The characteristics, the effects and the use of herbal medicines.
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry: The chemical aspects of identification and synthetic alteration of chemical entities as they relate to therapeutic use. The way various chemicals affect biological systems and how they can be integrated in drug development.
  • Pharmacokinetics: The body interaction with a specific drug after administration, the mechanisms of absorption and distribution and the substance chemical changes in the body.
  • Homeopathy: The alternative medicine whereby pills or liquid mixtures containing only a little of an active ingredient (usually a plant or mineral) can treat a disease.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of pharmacy assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Operate cash register: Register and handle cash transactions by using point of sale register.
  • Provide pharmaceutical advice: Provide information and advice on medicinal products such as the appropriate use, the adverse reactions and the interactions with other medications.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Communicate in foreign languages with health service providers: Apply foreign languages in communicating with health service providers such as doctors and nurses.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.

ISCO group and title

3213 – Pharmaceutical technicians and assistants


References
  1. Pharmacy assistant – ESCO
  2. Pharmacy assistant | Health Careers
  3. Pharmacy Assistant Job Description Sample | Monster.co.uk
  4. What Does a Pharmacy Assistant Do? | Indeed.com Canada
  5. Featured image: Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Last updated on January 5, 2023

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