11 Typical Pharmacy Technician Duties

As a pharmacy technician you will typically be on the frontline, ensuring the smooth operations at the pharmacy. You will greet patients, process their prescriptions, manage inventory and process insurance claims. Your day will be filled with varied tasks, including clinical as well as administrative duties. On this page you will learn about what all you will do as a pharmacy technician, what are the duties restricted by law and typical duties fulfilled in different kinds of work settings.

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

A pharmacy technician works primarily in a retail and hospital setting. In both these settings, as a pharmacy technician, you will be working under a licensed pharmacist. Depending on your work setting, your duties may vary, however understanding all the duties of a pharmacy technician, irrespective of the workplace, are imperative to your career. Read on to know the duties of a pharmacy technician:

1. Effectively Communicate with Patients: As a pharmacy technician, you will be the first line of contact in the pharmacy. You have to interact with patients and help quell their doubts. Instructing the patient about the medication, and helping them settle insurance claims or referring them to the pharmacist is what will be expected out of you.

2. Process Prescription: The primary duty of a pharmacy technician being processing prescription medicines, you must check the prescriptions thoroughly. You need to ensure certain information which includes the physician's name, business address, and phone number is present in order for it to be legal. Other details which require to be checked include the patient's name, address and phone number. You must look into the dosage instructions i.e. the dose of the medication, how often it should be taken and for how many days and accordingly dispense medication. For any clarification you need to consult the pharmacist, who in turn will contact the prescribing physician in case of any doubts.

3. Prepare and Dispense Medication: The next and most important duty is preparing the prescription and dispensing medication. You must ensure the prescription is filled in correctly. You will look up for the medicine carefully from the stocks, as many medicines can have similar names. The strength prescribed by the prescribing physician needs to be checked as any error here could mean a wrong dosage of medication and could be detrimental to the patient's health. Only after you have checked carefully, medications must be dispensed.

4. Properly Measure and Mix Medication: As a pharmacy tech you will be required to use a digital scale to measure pills or powders. The medicine must be administered after carefully counting the pills or measuring the liquid. To complete the process you have to select the right container for pills or liquid and label it correctly.

5. Use Technology to Print Labels: The labels are usually computer generated and must clearly include, the patient's name, the prescribing physician's name' the name of the medicine and the dosage instructions. You will then take a final review of the pharmacist to rule out any errors thus ensuring the safety of the patient and then hand over the medication.

6. Process Insurance Claims: The next step is to help the patient settle insurance claims. Before the patient leaves it is a good idea to check and confirm whether all the information on the insurance file is updated to avoid any hassles later. Next, you are required to process the claim. Nowadays most claims can be processed electronically which makes it faster and simpler for the pharmacy technician. If this is not an option you will require contacting the insurance company. At times due to clerical mistakes the claim can be denied. In such an instance you need to contact the insurance company for assistance. This process can at times be time consuming.

7. Manage Pharmacy Inventory: As a pharmacy tech, you must take physical stock counts and reconcile with the computer inventory records, usually at the end of the month or as and when instructed. When an order is received by the pharmacy you have to check for accuracy and then stock them on the shelves. Ensure proper storage of drugs in adherence to regulations that apply to a pharmacy. While stock taking, expired medications have to be checked for. Medications nearing expiry require to be shipped back to the pharmaceutical company. Supplies such as pill containers, bags and labels need to kept in an organized manner and ordered whenever required.

8. Enter Patient Data: Patient information, such as patient and prescription details and insurance claim files must be stored carefully or disposed off, if not required. All this data has to also be entered electronically. In some cases you may have to enter the possibility of any drug interactions or allergies that the patient may have.

9. Manage Accounts: As part of the clerical duties, you must manage pharmacy accounts, receive payments from patients and tally the payments and receipts each day.

10. Compound Intravenous IV Solutions: You will prepare liquids, ointments and powders to be used for intravenous mixing or compounding procedures. Depending on your work environment, you may be responsible to sanitize an IV room and the equipment.

11. Use Robotics and other Pharmacy Related Software's: As these days many pharmacies are automating the process of dispensing medication, you will use the Bar-Code Station to stock medication supplies and appropriately use the software to prepare and dispense medication.


Advanced Pharmacy Technician Duties

A pharmacy technician holds different positions, depending on his educational background, certifications he holds and years of work experience. While the duties of an entry level pharmacy technician are the regular ones mentioned above, advanced pharmacy technician positions demand additional duties and responsibilities. Let us look into the duties fulfilled by advanced pharmacy technicians.

Lead Pharmacy Technician: A lead pharmacy technician leads a team of pharmacy technicians by guiding them to keep the pharmacy running smoothly. He ensures other pharmacy technicians have the necessary skills and training to perform their daily tasks effectively. A lead pharmacy technician's duties include:

• Train entry level pharmacy technicians and ensure they attend other appropriate training programs to enhance their knowledge.

• Recruit new pharmacy technicians to work in the pharmacy.

• Purchase of drugs, identify and manage drug shortages.

• Look into the automated dispensing systems and make any required modifications in the drug inventory.

Nuclear Pharmacy Technician: Nuclear pharmacy technicians form a small percentage of pharmacy technicians who specialize in nuclear medicine which is often used for chemotherapy. A nuclear pharmacy technician works under the direct supervision of a licensed nuclear pharmacist. Usually a full-time job, the following are the duties of a nuclear pharmacy technician:

• Compound and dispense chemotherapy drugs.

• Advise healthcare providers about the proper use of nuclear medicine.

• Purchase drug and supplies using pharmacy inventory records.

• Package and label radiopharmaceuticals.

IV Pharmacy Technician: An IV pharmacy technician is primarily responsible for preparing intravenous solutions, apart from fulfilling the regular pharmacy technician duties. They usually work in hospital and outpatient settings. The main duties of an IV pharmacy technician are as follows:

• Prepare medications which include liquids, powders for intravenous mixing compounding.

• Process a prescription and create a label accordingly, that may consist of auxiliary or cautionary labels.

• Properly maintain and the room and sterilize the equipment in order to avoid spread of infection.


What a Pharmacy Technician is restricted to do by Law?

Drug Utilization Review: As a pharmacy technician you are not permitted to have a comprehensive review of a patient's medication data before, during and after the medications are dispensed and make any kind of decisions based on it.

Interpret and Modify the Medication: A pharmacy technician cannot use his judgment to interpret a prescription and modify a patient's medication for any reason without consulting the pharmacist.

Advice Patients: As a pharmacy technician you are not supposed to give any kind of health advice or recommend any over the counter medication to patients.

Validating the Dispensing Process: Before dispensing medication to the patient, you need an approval from the pharmacist, at the pharmacy you are working in. Under no circumstances is a pharmacy technician supposed to validate the dispensing process.


Typical Duties in Different Settings

Pharmacy techs have job openings in varied sectors. Depending on the work schedule you choose, the skills you possess and the degree you have earned, you can work either in a retail setting, which offers flexible work hours or in a hospital setting, where you can expect higher salaries, but will be expected to work full time, at times even over weekends and on holidays. Depending on the place you choose to work in and the state you live in, your duties vary. Let us glance through the duties of a pharmacy technician working in a retail pharmacy, in a hospital setting, in nursing home/assisted living and in a mail order pharmacy.

In A Retail Pharmacy: About 70% of pharmacy technicians' work in retail for national chain stores such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart and Target or grocery stores such as Kroger. A pharmacy technician's duties in retail pharmacies primarily include:

• Assist patients, answer their questions, process prescriptions and dispense medications.

• Do stock taking and inventory management.

• Perform administrative duties such as billing, printing labels to be affixed upon medicine bottles, entering data, maintaining patient records and processing insurance claims, either electronically or by contacting the insurance company.

• Ring in the cash registers by boosting sales of everything from electronics to cosmetics at the retail store.

In Nursing Homes/Assisted Living: In assisted living and nursing homes you will work in a similar manner as in hospitals. Depending on the size of the facility, this can be a full or part time job. Apart from the basic duties, a pharmacy technician's duties in a nursing home or assisted living facility includes:

• Prescriptions require to be filled in a single dose manner.

• The day starts by filling medication that needs to be taken by the patient before or after breakfast. After that you need to fill the medications to be taken later in the day keeping the appropriate doses in mind and make it accessible to the nurse in charge so that she can administer the medication to the patient.

In A Hospital: Working in a hospital includes working at the hospital pharmacy, dispensing medications to either outpatients or patients admitted into the hospital. Hospitals in the United States comprise the second largest employer of pharmacy technicians. Apart from the regular duties, a pharmacy technician's duties in a hospital setting will include:

• Process prescriptions and dispense medications.

• Educate patient on the instructions, dosage and possible side effects of the medication.

• Require to settle the bill before the patient leaves.

• Inventory management and clerical duties like entering patient data, answering calls and accounting will also form part of your duties in such a setting.

• Since the pharmacy provides medication to all patients admitted in the hospital, including the emergency ward and operating room, as a pharmacy tech, in spite of hardly having any direct contact with the patients, you are required to prepare prescriptions by communicating with the nurses or physicians, either over the telephone or more recently, electronically.

• Deliver medications to whichever floor requires any stock of a particular drug in the hospital.

• Inpatient settings also require you to make IVs, which require special training in aseptic technique (to minimize the risk of infection) and clean room procedures.

In A Mail Order Pharmacy: Mail order pharmacies send prescription medicines by mail and hence are a preferred option to order prescription on an ongoing basis for chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. They process a high volume of prescriptions for common medications such as blood thinners, pain killers and cholesterol pills. To cope up with this volume they use machines to dispense medications. The process is usually automated, and you mainly must oversee it. Apart from the basic, typical duties of a pharmacy technician in a mail order pharmacy includes:

• You are required to learn the computer program used to operate the machine.

• Operating the machine which includes filling the machines with medicines, loading of paper for labels and general maintenance of the machine forms part of your duty.

• Entering prescription requests received via mails, faxes or phone into a computer has to be done.

• You have to process the prescription and mail it to the patient.

From empathetic listening to entering data, from accounting to counting pills, from stock taking to processing insurance claims, your day will be filled with challenges. Nevertheless, helping a patient towards the path of recovery makes it a very fulfilling job at the end of the day.


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