Pharmacy technicians, under the supervision of a pharmacist, check incoming goods, control stock, handle and store pharmaceuticals properly. Where permitted by national rules, they dispense medication and provide advice on their appropriate use.
Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:
- Collect information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals
- Measure amounts of medication for prescriptions
- Package and label prescriptions
- Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications or supplies
- Accept payment for prescriptions and process insurance claims
- Enter customer or patient information, including any prescriptions taken, into a computer system
- Answer phone calls from customers
- Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters
The following job titles also refer to pharmacy technician:
technical assistant in pharmacy
technician in pharmaceuticals
pharmacy technical assistant
technician in pharmacy
technologist in pharmacy
technologist in pharmaceuticals
Pharmacy technicians typically work in retail stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. They spend the majority of their work day on their feet, filling and packaging prescriptions, and working with pharmacists and other health care providers. Depending on where they work, they may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays.
Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and typically learn their duties through on-the-job training. The training periods vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.
Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Pharmacy technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.
Some jurisdictions regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.
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 technician is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Pharmacy technician career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to pharmacy technician.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of pharmacy technician. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of pharmacy technician with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of pharmacy technician.
- 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 technician.
- 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.
- Operate cash register: Register and handle cash transactions by using point of sale register.
- 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.
- 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 pharamacy 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Refer healthcare users: Make referrals to other professionals, based on the healthcare user’s requirements and needs, especially when recognising that additional healthcare diagnostics or interventions are required.
- Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
- Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
- Report medication interaction to pharmacist: Identify medication interactions, whether they are drug-drug or drug-patient interactions, and report any interactions to the pharmacist.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of pharmacy technician. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Prepare intravenous packs: Under a pharmacist`s supervision, add measured drugs or nutrients to intravenous solutions to prepare intravenous packs ensuring the process is done under sterile conditions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Provide medication information: Provide patients with information about their medication, possible side effects, and contra-indications.
- Provide pharmaceutical advice: Provide information and advice on medicinal products such as the appropriate use, the adverse reactions and the interactions with other medications.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prepare medication from prescription: Prepare the pharmaceutical form of medicinal products according to the prescription received from the medical doctor.
- Prioritise tasks: Organise tasks according to their priority.
- Prepare doses of medication according to patient needs: Ensure the patient receives the appropriate dose and form of medication.
- Communicate in foreign languages with health service providers: Apply foreign languages in communicating with health service providers such as doctors and nurses.
- Employ foreign languages for health-related research: Use foreign languages for conducting and collaborating in health-related research.
- 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
- Pharmacy technician – ESCO
- Pharmacy Technicians : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Pharmacy Technician – Explore Health Care Careers – Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science
- Featured image: By Jahweh – Own work, Public Domain