Also known as a pharmaceutical technician or a healthcare worker, these professionals work in a wide range of pharmacy related fields, usually in liaison with a medical professional. Due to the vastness of the medical field, their portfolio of tasks includes a range of important functions. These functions include filling prescriptions, dispensing pharmaceutical drugs, liaising with insurance companies for medical related payments and ordering medical supplies.
The Importance Of Pharmacy Technicians
In recent years, due to immense shortages in aspects like education, training and expertise, technicians have been required to extend their reach and influence. These shortages are not limited to developing countries alone. Indeed, even in developed countries, technicians go the extra mile in providing good quality medical care and ensuring that the right procedures are followed in the dispensing of medication. According to the “Pharmacy Technician Overview,” as prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center: “Pharmacy technician jobs hold about 285,000 positions in the United States.”
Job Opportunities For Technicians In The Professional Sector
There are a range of possibilities in terms of pharmacy technician jobs. Placements depend largely on a technician’s level of experience, their formal education and their interpersonal skills.
Technicians In The Retail Field
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010 – 11 as directed by the United Sates Bureau of Labor Statistics: “About 75 percent of pharmacy technician jobs were in a retail setting.”
In the retail field, these technicians play roles as community helpers, working alongside qualified pharmacists in the dispensary and performing tasks which include:
- Filling prescriptions and dispensing the appropriate medication to patrons who have obtained formal prescriptions from their general practitioners and other medical specialists.
- Giving advice on how to use the medication appropriately, how to deal with any potential side effects and what to do if the medical problem persists.
- Recording personal details and medical records for future reference.
- Obtaining approval from the resident pharmacist before prescribing or dispensing certain medication.
- Distributing medical documents and receiving prescriptions from other local pharmacies in order to attend to the needs of patrons.
- Monitoring stock and facilitating the ordering and intake of medication and medical supplies.
- Administrative tasks relating to the operation of the pharmacy, its staff constituent and its medical stock.
In addition to these professional tasks, these technicians need to be able to interact with people on a deeply personal level. Often, these technicians interact with community members when they are at their most vulnerable emotional states. They therefore have to have to have the ability to build a rapport with their customers and be trustworthy and approachable.
Pharmacy Technician Jobs In Prisons And Other Institutions
In institutions, technicians perform vital roles similar to those performed at a retail level. In this field, they may work in conjunction with and according to governmental procedures and ensure that facilities run as effectively as possible. There tasks therefore extend to those including:
- Performing formal audits of the work and consultancies of general practitioners who treat patients in correctional facilities, primary care institutions and armed force treatment centers.
- Ensuring a constant supply of the right kinds of medication through procurement of medication and the use of ordering systems.
- Administering injections and medication as prescribed by other medical professionals.
- Assisting with the treatment of minor ailments like colds and influenza, which are potentially life-threatening in these environments where infected patients live in close proximity with their fellows.
- Administering medication according to state laws and legislation.
- Monitoring the condition of patients and treating them accordingly in conjunction with other specialists and internal practitioners.
As in the retail sector, these technicians will often have to undergo specialized pharmacy technician training to deal with their immediate environments, which can prove very challenging. They will also be trained in emergency procedures to ensure that outbreaks of disease or acts of violence can be contained on a medical level without disrupting the operations of the institution. Although they may not perform the role of professional counselors, they need to have the knowledge and level of assertiveness to deal with patients who may be incarcerated and/or living under highly stressed conditions within an institution.
Mail Order Medical Dispensary Jobs
Ordering medication and filling prescription via mail orders is fast becoming one of the most rapidly growing fields in the industry. The large demand for these kinds of services is influenced greatly by society’s constant need for more convenient service delivery. It requires less effort and time on the part of the customer and works just as effectively as ordering pharmaceutical drugs over-the-counter does. Benefits for these kinds of companies are lower operating costs and the ability to stipulate one’s own working hours according to fluctuations in the level of demand. The duties of technicians in these types of positions include the following:
- Receiving the orders and relevant prescriptions which need to be filled.
- Recording all the orders and tracking the activities of customers for future reference.
- Meeting delivery deadlines to ensure that customers receive the medication they need in the right quantities and within the correct time frame.
- Labeling medication accurately and ensuring that all usage instructions follow legal and medial health protocol in the interests of protecting the well-being of customers.
- Constantly processing the inflow of new orders and ensuring that supplies are kept at sufficient levels.
These kinds of technicians do not play the kind of roles as those in the retail field do, largely because they do not spend much time with customers and in fact, rarely come into direct contact with the people they serve. Thus, they need to practice extreme discipline, as their time constraints and work ethic is not dictated to them directly by the public but is largely reliant on their own sense of responsibility and commitment to doing their job to the best of their ability. They need to be just as meticulous as any technicians in other fields because a mistake in this industry can be a matter of life and death.
Careers In Clinics And Hospitals
Among the range of certified pharmacy technician jobs which are available, are those in hospitals, clinics and medical treatment facilities. Here, it is integral that technicians have the ability to work as a part of a team. The unity of any workforce in this field of medicine plays a central role in its overall success and there simply can be no room left for error. Technicians in this environment also need to be able to use their initiative. Although their work is always done in conjunction with a certified pharmacist or doctor, a large amount of responsibility lies on their shoulders, especially in emergency situations where decisiveness is the key. Their duties include but are not limited to:
- Providing patients with advice on how to use their medication safely while they are in hospital and when they are discharged.
- Checking and recording the different kinds of medication which are prescribed to each patient on a daily basis.
- Helping doctors to prepare specialized medication administered to specific patients with special medical needs.
- Ensuring that all medication is prepared or modified in environments free from bacterial infection and the infiltration of harmful chemicals.
- Helping in the making of special medicines which are not commercially available or which do not arrive in the form in which they will be administered to patients.
- Preparing creams and ointments.
- Measuring, counting and preparing medication for distribution to different wards.
Technicians in this field have to be adaptable and flexible in terms of their abilities. Their services may be needed in different areas in the facility throughout the day and they need to be readily available to help wherever they can. They may be required to work in shifts which may range from day or night shifts to those which require technicians to work in the early hours of the morning. While they may be able to prepare their tasks in advance, they can never be sure when an emergency situation may arise and should be prepared for anything in this fast-paced work environment.
Fields Of Work Requiring The Expertise Of Trained Pharmacy Technicians
In any area of work, whether it be in the retail or the hospital arena, technicians may undertake or oversee the facilitation of certain aspects of work in this industry. These aspects become almost like areas of specialization and technicians may wish to focus on one or more of these areas during their studies and further education.
According to Richard Seal, Program Consultant in Medicines Management for the NHS: “Medicines management is about enabling people to make the best possible use of their medicines.”
Therefore, in short, it is the discipline whereby the medicine prescribed to each patient is monitored closely to avoid negative side effects which may occur when two or more different types of medication are taken simultaneously. It regulates different medication to ensure that the process runs smoothly and that any medication issued to the patient is directed in a safe and responsible manner. It also requires that technicians be able to assist with a level of forecasting. That is to say, a technician needs to be able to predict which medication may be needed by a patient in future, having taking into consideration their medical history and their present condition. These patients may include cancer patients or pregnant women. This forecasting ability will help them to ensure that the hospital or treatment facility is well stocked with the appropriate kind of medication to adequately supply patients with the assistance they need.
The industry of medicines manufacturing is one of the largest and plausibly, the most influential medical industry in the world. It is the boiling pot for the new technologies and medication which have led to the phenomenal increase in worldwide life expectancy and the capability of medicine to sustain and support life for longer. Needless to say, technicians in this industry work in plants and laboratories which are often closely linked with governmental institutions and initiatives and are constantly looking at ways in which to develop the medical industry further.
This particular field of work for technicians has evidently led to the establishment of large-scale companies and medical manufacturing plants.
In this field, all medicines are thoroughly tested to ensure that they are safe for usage, that they produce the desired results and that they perform according to the required standards. Technicians will be involved in tasks like:
- Testing medicines and recording data regarding its effects on patients.
- Technical preventative procedures to ensure that all medication can be safely used.
- Quality management procedures as stipulated by lab scientists and authoritative bodies.
- Ensure that governmental quality standards are followed during the manufacturing, developmental, packaging and distribution procedures.
These tasks are of a highly technical nature and technicians will liaise with medical scientists and technologists.
Medical Supplies Procurement
Procurement technicians work closely with medicine manufacturing companies and plants to determine which suppliers would best suit their company’s/institution’s/hospital’s/retail pharmacy’s business model and individual needs. While working in conjunction with pharmacists and practitioners in different fields, they will have the following responsibilities:
- The ordering and purchasing of patient care supplies, medication and medical equipment.
- Supply sourcing
- Planning services according to available budgetary stipulations.
- Facilitating automated ordering systems and implementing changes where necessary.
- Managing information technology systems for these purposes.
These tasks are imperative to ensuring that the operations of medical facilities run effectively.
Changes And Job Prospects For Future Pharmaceutical Technicians
According to various studies on what the future holds for technicians in these fields, pharmacy technician job prospects look increasingly positive. This is due to a number of factors including:
- New developments in medical technology and the subsequent emergence of new medication which can cure previously “incurable” diseases and conditions.
- A rise in worldwide life expectancy and therefore the longer need for each individual to use medication.
- The opening up of entry-level positions due to the rapid advancements of former technicians and aides who study and fulfill managerial and leadership positions.
- The rising trend in insurance companies using pharmacies and treatment facilities to monitor and track the health of their insurance members.
- The increase in demand for more efficient administrative organisation and technicians’ abilities to fulfill the needs of this demand.
Statistics show that the, “employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to increase by 32 percent from 2006 to 2016, which is much faster than the average for all occupations,” (“Pharmacy Technician Overview” Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www.careercornerstone.org)).
For many aspiring medical field workers, striving towards obtaining a pharmacy technician job is an obtainable and sustainable prospect. With studies showing the rise in opportunities for these talented and hard-working individuals, the earning potential for technicians is increasing, much to the benefit of the industry as a whole. Although these positions are demanding and personally challenging at times, the rewards always seem to prove greater. Besides playing a major role in the very sustenance and maintenance of human life, helping people is always a self-fulfilling undertaking.