5 Most Important Pharmacy Technician Skills
- The pandemic forced pharmacy technicians to take on advanced clinical roles.
- Pharmacy techs need administrative and technical skills to work in their growing field.
- Filling prescriptions requires pharmacy technicians to be detail-oriented multitaskers.
Pharmacy technicians have played a crucial role during the pandemic as pressures on pharmacies have increased significantly. Pharmacy technicians helped pharmacists provide COVID-19 vaccinations to the masses after the Department of Health and Human Services permitted techs to administer immunizations. Pharmacy technician skills will continue to evolve as healthcare shifts toward more patient-centered models.
Because of shifts in healthcare demands, pharmacy technicians of the future will increasingly need a two-year degree, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Pharmacy technicians will take on more clinical roles related to quality improvement. However, pharmacy technician soft skills will also remain important.
What skills do you need to be a pharmacy technician? In addition to important technical knowledge, pharmacy technicians need an eye for detail, strong multitasking abilities, and solid customer service skills. Read on to learn more about the most important pharmacy technician skills.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Pharmacy Technician?
With a high school or GED diploma and training, you can become a pharmacy technician. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly 422,000 pharmacy technicians worked in the United States in 2019. The BLS projects that jobs for these professionals will grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, with employers adding more than 15,000 positions.
Pharmacy technicians can pursue on-the-job training straight out of high school or through pharmacy technician training programs at community colleges and vocational schools. Graduates may earn certificates or associate degrees, developing the five pharmacy technician skills outlined below.
Customer Service Skills
Pharmacy technicians fill medication orders on the phone and in person. They need strong communication skills to collect accurate information from patients and confirm prescriptions written by doctors or nurse practitioners. Pharmacy technicians also serve as liaisons between customers and pharmacists.
The degree to which pharmacy technicians deal with customers depends on the setting. Techs in retail pharmacies may interact more with customers, whereas their counterparts in hospitals may focus more on prescriptions.
When interacting with customers, it's important for pharmacy technicians to be mindful of the language they use. Joshua Murdock, a licensed pharmacist in Indianapolis who previously worked as a pharmacy technician, stressed the importance of choosing the right words when communicating with a variety of people.
“It's critical to be highly respectful and use inclusive language at all times. It's impossible to deliver good patient care if we are disrespectful or use offensive or insensitive language.”
An Eye for Details
Pharmacy technicians dispense medications to customers. Filling prescriptions requires accuracy and care, since the wrong medication or dosage could harm a person's health or even lead to death.
Pharmacy technicians count, measure, and compound medications. They also label and package medications. These workers must be detail-oriented and conscientious.
Weighing and measuring medication requires pharmacy technicians to perform basic math, including algebra. They also work with ratios and fractions. With the help of tables, pharmacy technicians perform calculations to determine how much of an ingredient to mix with another, especially when compounding intravenous medications.
“Pharmacy math isn't necessarily difficult compared to calculus or other types of advanced math, but it's used often.”
These professionals may measure liquid medications in milliliters and pills in milligrams. The job also requires pharmacy technicians to convert measurements between metric, apothecary, and avoirdupois systems. Basic accounting knowledge also helps pharmacy technicians handle inventory and complete customer transactions.
Murdock also reiterated the importance of math skills.
"Pharmacy math isn't necessarily difficult compared to calculus or other types of advanced math, but it's used often. Given the busy workflow of many pharmacies, it's also necessary to perform calculations quickly. Addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division are used on a daily basis to calculate different medication dosages, quantities, and frequencies."
The fast-paced environment of pharmacies requires pharmacy technicians to multitask. Pharmacy technicians need to be able to switch gears with ease. While talking to customers, they may also need to be on the phone verifying a patient's insurance and entering information in a computer.
Pharmacy technicians not only fill prescriptions, but also manage phones and drive-throughs and attend to customers waiting in line. They should be able to carry out all of these tasks without becoming overwhelmed.
Pharmacy technology programs teach future techs how to use popular industry software like PioneerRx — a type of accounting and operational management software. Pharmacy software helps pharmacy professionals process billing, track drug inventory, and manage patient prescriptions.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pharmacy Technician Skills
In general, yes. All pharmacy technicians perform the same basic duties. However, retail pharmacies may require pharmacy technicians to perform more tasks routinely reserved for pharmacy assistants, such as answering the phone, processing insurance claims, and handling transactions. Hospitals often hire certified pharmacy technicians primarily to fill prescriptions. These workers may need to have a greater knowledge of pharmacology and terminology.
Working in a pharmacy may require standing on your feet for hours and working at a frenzied pace to fill prescriptions quickly but accurately. Whether you work in a retail or hospital setting, a career as a pharmacy technician involves stress. The workload may feel overwhelming for some professionals. To deal with the stress, pharmacy technicians should take breaks, prioritize their work, and create a self-care routine.
Pharmacy technicians must work well in teams, since they collaborate daily with licensed pharmacists, insurance carriers, physicians, and pharmacy assistants. Senior pharmacy technicians may delegate tasks to other pharmacy workers and take directions from pharmacists.
Feature Image: FG Trade / E+ / Getty Images