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Pharmacy technician

In the United States, pharmacy technician is a job title to describe a person who works with a licensed pharmacist to provide medication and other health care products to patients. Technicians often do the routine tasks associated with preparing prescribed medication, and the manual labor component of getting drugs to where patients reside.

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations. According to a 2002 United States Department of Labor report, about two-thirds worked in retail pharmacies, both independently owned or part of a drugstore, grocery store or mass retailer chain. An additional 22% of pharmacy technician jobs were in hospitals, while a small portion worked in mail-order or Internet pharmacies, clinics, pharmaceutical wholesalers, and the Federal Government.

Responsibilities of a pharmacy technician differ depending on location. In many operations, they may manage assistants or do the work of pharmacy aides: answering telephone calls, handling money, stocking shelves, and computer data entry, among other odd jobs.

Pharmacy technicians who work in a hospital, nursing home or assisted-living-type facilities have additional responsibilities. In many circumstances, they will read patient charts in conjunction with a prescription, verified by both a physician and a pharmacist, before preparing and physically delivering medicine to nurses, who administer it to patients. Technicians may also be responsible for managing robotic organizational systems that stock and organize 24-hour supplies of medicine for every patient in a health care facility. Technicians package and label each dose of medication separately, either by hand or with packaging machines. These packages are co-ordinated with a computer using bar codes, and make it possible to automate pharmacy-side drug delivery: a package labeled by name, dose and expiration is cataloged in a computer, before being placed on a shelf controlled by a robotic arm until it is needed to be given to a patient. The robot will create small containers for an individual patient that contain the medicine needed for a defined time period. Groups of these containers are then organized by pharmacy technicians and delivered to appropriate locations.

Most pharmacy technicians have only on-the-job training, but many employers favor those who have completed a formal training and certification process. This type of training program is usually offered by the military, some hospitals, proprietary schools, vocational or technical colleges, and community colleges. As of 2002, there were no US federal and few state laws making it mandatory for all technicians employed to meet this qualifying standard.