How Long Will it Take to Get My Pharmacy Tech Certification?

As most people know, a health care related career is some of the most important work a person can do. Whether a doctor, a nurse, or a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, health care workers strive to keep people healthy. And what could be more important than that?

For those looking into a health care career, the position of Pharmacy Technician may appeal to you. Depending on the workplace, a Pharmacy Technician has a variety of duties and responsibilities, from counting out pills to corresponding with customers, and each duty is important. Even routine tasks, such as labeling bottles, can be of life-or-death importance– as, of course, it’s imperative that patients are given the correct medications in the correct doses.

The hourly earnings of a Pharmacy Technician also vary from workplace to workplace. Pharmacy Techs who earn the most generally work in hospitals, where they earn an average of $13 hourly. The lowest-earning Pharmacy Technicians work in health or personal care stores, with about a $10.50 hourly wage. Obviously, where you choose to work as a Pharmacy Technician matters. And because hospitals and other highly specialized locations pay best, they also look for the best Technicians– that is, Pharmacy Techs with certification.

Training to Be a Pharmacy Technician

While some smaller drug stores, etc., simply provide on-the-job training to untrained Pharmacy Technicians, most higher-paying locations look for Pharmacy Technicians with formal training and certification. To obtain this, most aspiring Pharmacy Techs attend online or classroom training courses. When choosing a Pharmacy Tech course, there are several things to keep in mind, such as length of course, depth of subject matter, and quality of the course (accreditation).

How Long Will it Take?

Most Pharmacy Technician training courses run from about six months to a year, depending on the course. In that time, you will learn the skills required to operate a pharmacy, follow correct pharmaceutical procedures, provide the correct drug dosages, and assist the pharmacist in administrative tasks. This course also helps to prepare you for your PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board) exam or ExCPT (Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians).

While there are very few current federal and state laws governing the need for Pharmacy Tech certification, having a PTCB or ExCPT certification is becoming the standard. Passing one or more of these examinations is of key importance.

What if I Need to Finish Faster?

If you don’t have the six months to a year it takes to complete a Pharmacy Tech training course, there are several options available. As the certification is more important to potential employers than the formal training, you can choose to focus your time on studying for the test. You can do this either by studying the test materials, or taking one of the variety of short “crash course” cramming sessions offered by some schools. Most of these courses are from a few hours to several days, and are designed to give you all the information you need to pass you PTCB or ExCPT exams.

What Are the Key Contributors of the Growing Demand For Pharmacy Technicians?

There are quite a number of positive developments which affect the increase of pharmacist Technicians in the past decades, some of them are:

1. The gain of national certification on pharmacy Technician career and job has opened up a lot of opportunities for those who have the interest to become assistant to a pharmacist.

2. The development of model curriculums for Pharmacy Technician training and a higher and greater level of recognition of pharmacy technicians in the State and Nation wide on pharmacy practice Acts have encouraged many potentials to seek for new employment opportunities as well as to seek for pharmacy technician’s courses in colleges or online.

3. The roles and responsibilities of Pharmacy technicians have been more clearly defined in hospital, community centre, clinics and wherever the skill sets of pharmacy technicians are needed.
4. Increasingly, hospital pharmacies are encouraged to develop pharmacy technician programs and the increase changes being called out to ensure the roles of these technicians was appropriately articulated in state laws and regulations.

5. The responsibilities of this professions have increased over the years from initially they are responsible for most of the clerical work only in the pharmacy ( similar to a clerk) … until they start to play the governance role for the state pharmacy association as well as the state board of pharmacy.

6. The enablement of pharmacy asistants across multiple settings today, including community pharmacy, hospitals and health systems, long term care facilities, clinic pharmacies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical whole-salers etc signify that this is a profession which is largely needed in a good wide spread of industry.

7. In the recent years, pharmacists have become more receptive to pharmacy technicians compared to 15 years back where the latter is given the task of dispensing medicine only. However much has changed over the last few years in the potential increased in job scopes of pharmacy technicians.

8. The enhancement in medical field has enabled new medications, antidotes to be invented across the world by the medical experts. This has significantly reduced non fatal deaths, reduce or eliminate significant pain of patients with this invention. With the prolonged age of the population in the society today, the demand for pharmacy technicians have significantly being increased as well.

9. On the other hand, with the increase invention of of new medications invested and become available today, the pharmacists are faced with a greater number of prescriptions to dispense. This has directly reduced the bandwidth of the pharmacists, leaving them with lesser time for counseling patients. At the same time, their working conditions and schedules have deteriorated with an increase in job stress. This is where the importance of the pharmacy technicians comes into picture and they presence has helped to take over the tasks of dispensing the prescriptions to the patients.

Pharmacy assistants as such has gained it popularity increasing nowadays and it is by no mistake on the increased demand of pharmacy technicians in many health sectors in the society today.

What a Pharmacy Technician Does

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy? Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy technicians in healthcare. The rest of this article will list different types of pharmacy settings and the roles that pharmacy technicians have in these settings.

Community/Retail Pharmacy:

I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

• Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
• Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
• Filling and selling prescriptions
• Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
• Compounding medications that are not commercially available
• Ordering medications
• Restocking shelves
• Answering the phone
• Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
• Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions

Hospital Pharmacy:

There are many different roles for pharmacy technicians in a hospital pharmacy. I know this type of pharmacy best since this is where most of my work has been. The most common are technicians who work in the central pharmacy. In addition we have decentralized techs, sterile compounding techs, billing techs, OR techs, narcotic techs, database techs, automation techs, team lead techs, and buyer techs. These technicians as a whole perform the following tasks, but not limited to:

• Filling new orders, this includes a variety of medications from oral medications to specially prepared sterile compound medications (including chemotherapy meds)
• Answering the phone
• Tubing medications (if the pharmacy has a pneumatic tube station)
• Preparing medications for delivery
• Delivering medications
• Assisting floor pharmacists with medication histories
• Assisting floor pharmacists with IV drip checks
• Handling missing dose calls
• Billing medications where nurse charting does not bill
• Maintaining the pharmacy database
• Restocking operating rooms and anesthesia trays with appropriate medication
• Dispensing and tracking all controlled substances throughout the hospital
• Maintaining automation equipment [automated dispensing cabinets that store medication on nursing units, automatic fill systems (typically called Robot-Rx)]
• Purchasing of all medication and supplies needed in the pharmacy
• Leading and managing the technician workforce, including upkeep of schedules

Long-Term Care Pharmacy:

I have worked at a couple of long-term care pharmacies, and I think it is a great place to be a technician. They typically employee a lot of techs because the work load lends itself to a lot of technician tasks. These pharmacies provide the medication needs for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and psychiatric facilities. The typical pharmacy is located in a warehouse. It does not have an open pharmacy for people to come to; they receive orders by fax and deliver all medications via couriers or drivers to facilities. The oral medication is filled in blister packs (cards of 30 tabs that are used to provide a 1 month supply of medication), or some other mechanism that provide the facility with an extended amount of medication doses that can be safely and cleanly kept until doses are due. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

• Filling new and refill orders (different from hospital because of the number of doses provided)
• Processing new order and refills coming through the fax machine
• Order entry of prescriptions and printing of labels for fill techs
• Sterile compounding of medications (although there aren’t as many sterile compounded medications as a hospital, there are still enough that most long-term care pharmacies have a few techs specialize in sterile compounding
• Billing medications to homes
• Controlled substance dispensing and documentation
• Ordering medications and supplies
• Restocking medications that are returned that are still suitable for reuse.

Home Infusion Pharmacy:

These pharmacies primarily care for patients that require some form of IV or other non oral medication, and want to receive the therapy at home (hence the name home-infusion). I have also worked in a home-infusion pharmacy. As a tech I had a lot of experience in sterile compounding, and found my self in any position that needed a IV room tech. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

• Compounding sterile preparations in the clean room
• Preparing supplies associated with sterile medication administration for delivery
• Billing medications delivered to patients home
• Coordinating deliveries of medications with patients
• Entering orders in the pharmacy order entry system

Nuclear Pharmacy:

No, I have not worked in a nuclear pharmacy (I am sure you were staring to think I got around quite a bit, but I have been in pharmacy for about 17 years). I have some friends who work in a nuclear pharmacy. The hours are interesting; they usually come in at about 3 AM and work until about noon. These types of pharmacies make radioactive compounds and they need to be made in a way that when they are delivered to the hospital or clinic administering them, that the dose has degraded to a specific amount. Without going into too much detail, these medications have short half-lives. So they have to time the compounding of the product with the time it takes to deliver the medication and the time the patient is to receive the dose. The job pays well, but as you can imagine, there are not a ton of these positions available. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

• Preparing radioactive products
• Cleaning and preparing sterile compounding areas
• Entering orders into the pharmacy system
• Coordinating dose due times with deliveries and preparation
• Billing products to hospital or clinic

Health Plans/HMO Pharmacy Group:

I saved this one for last because it is a lot different. Most healthcare plans have a pharmacy department. They manage the pharmacy benefit of the health plan. I have worked with my companies health plan and have spent some time with the pharmacy department. Pharmacy technician tasks include, but are not limited to:

• Answering phone calls and providing support for patients on the pharmacy benefit
• Reviewing prior authorization requests
• Providing support to physicians and drug companies for information requests
• Supporting the pharmacists in the department with database and projects as needed

As you can see, pharmacy technician roles can be very diverse. The best advice I can give you is to figure out what setting you would most like to work in and obtain some experiential hours in that setting. I have found that the type of pharmacy you train in is typically the type of pharmacy you end up working in.

Careers in Pharmacy – What Should I Pursue?

Pharmacies generally employ two types of professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. While both are integral to a pharmacy’s performance, they represent two very different approaches to careers in pharmacy. When deciding what career path is right for you, a lot of factors come into play. In this article, we will outline these two careers in pharmacy so you can make the right choice!

Pharmacist- What is It?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are in charge of dispensing prescription medications to patients. Typically, a pharmacist will fill prescriptions, check interactions of a patient’s prescriptions, instruct patients on proper use of a medication, and oversee pharmacy technician, interns, and various other careers in pharmacy. Many pharmacists own or manage their own pharmacy and are more business minded. Some pharmacists work for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and are involved in the creation of new medications. The median annual wage of pharmacists is very good, punching in at $111,570 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacist?

The path to becoming a pharmacist is unique- while most graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate experience, a Doctor of Pharmacy program requires as little as two, as long as the appropriate prerequisites are met, such as courses in chemistry, anatomy, and biology (although some programs do require a bachelor’s degree). An entrance exam, known as the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), is also required. Most programs will take about four years to complete, and graduates who want a more advanced pharmacist position will complete a one-two year residency program. Many pharmacists who go on to own their own pharmacies will also acquire a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Graduates must also pass two exams detailing pharmacy skills and pharmacy law in order to attain a state license. While this process may seem long, it pays off with one of the most rewarding careers in pharmacy.

Pharmacy Technician- What is It?

Pharmacy (or pharmaceutical) technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients. They will usually be the ones measuring out prescriptions, compounding medications like ointments, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals, and performing routine tasks like answering phones and filling forms. The pharmacy technician will work under the supervision of the pharmacist- if the customer has questions about medications or health, the pharmacy technician will arrange for the customer to speak with the pharmacist, as he/she is the more trained of the two careers in pharmacy. Technicians must have great customer service skills, organizational skills, and be detail oriented. The median annual wage of a pharmacy technician was $28,400 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacy Technician?

Becoming a pharmacy technician provides the simpler process of the two careers in pharmacy. Each technician must have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an exam or complete a formal training program, depending on the state. Many pharmacy technicians will learn their skills on-site, but some will attend vocational schools or community colleges to complete programs in pharmacy technology. These programs detail arithmetic, pharmacy law and ethics, and record keeping. This path will allow for the quickest work straight out of high school for graduates pondering one of the careers in pharmacy.

Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are absolutely vital to a pharmacy. These two positions are dynamic and rewarding, constantly helping patients get their medications. I hope this article has helped you decide which of the careers in pharmacy is right for you!

Pharmacy Technician – A Closer Look

In the not so distant past when you walked into a pharmacy needing to get a prescription filled you would have, in most instances, found that your prescription was actually filled by the on duty pharmacists. However, over the past few years a change has occurred in the pharmacist arena and that change is, “a pharmacist probably no longer filling your prescriptions”. Although pharmacists are on duty wherever medications are dispensed; today in most instances, a pharmacy technician or pharmacy assistant are the ones filling prescriptions.

Pharmacy Technicians and assistants have existed for some time but their roles have evolved for a variety of reasons. A big reason is that they help to reduce health care costs because they get paid much less than a certified pharmacist. Another important reason is that it simply makes sense. Pharmacy technicians and assistants are trained to handle routine work (fill prescriptions and customer service), which frees up the pharmacists to focus more of their time on supervisory duties, as well as patient care.

Melissa Murer, Executive Director of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, put it this way, “Pharmacists are becoming more focused on patient care, so pharmacy technicians are needed to perform more of the distributive functions.”

In this brief (but hopefully informative article) I attempt to demonstrate what pharmacy technician and assistants do and where they do it.

In general, they assist licensed pharmacists in providing medication and health care to patients by preparing and filling prescriptions and performing clerical tasks. Duties are similar but pharmacy technicians generally have more responsibilities. In addition, technicians and assistants are required to be closely supervised by a licensened pharmacist, although the laws defining what “being supervised” entails, varies by state.

In addition to having all of their prescriptions checked by a pharmacist, technicians and assistants must also direct all patient questions regarding drug information, health matters or prescriptions to the pharmacist.

Pharmacy Technicians
Technicians follow specific procedures when filling prescriptions. After receiving an initial prescription or refill request, they must verify that the prescription information is accurate and then count, pour, retrieve, weigh, measure and if necessary, mix the required medication for the prescription. The next step is to prepare and affix the labels to the proper container. After filling the prescription the technician will then price and file it. Another important aspect of a technician’s job is to prepare patient insurance forms and establish and maintain patient profiles.

In retail pharmacies, technicians will also stock and take inventory of medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) maintain equipment and help manage the till.

In many hospitals, technicians have the responsibility to read the doctors orders from a patients’ chart, prepare and then deliver the medication after it’s been checked by a pharmacist. They may also enter information about patients’ medical records (regarding their medications) or put together a supply (normally 24 hours) of medicine for patients, including the labeling and packaging of each dose. But just like technicians working in a retail pharmacy, each package is checked by the supervising pharmacist before being given to a patient and they also maintain inventories of medicine and other supplies.

Pharmacy Assistants
Duties are similar to pharmacy technicians and while hospitals and pharmacies employ pharmacy assistants, the number of available positions is generally less than technicians. In retail pharmacies they work as clerks or cashiers, answer phones, handle money and perform clerical duties. In hospitals they also deliver medications and assist in stocking shelves.

Pharmacy technicians and assistants work in clean well-organized areas but are required to spend most of their workday on their feet. And because more and more pharmacies are open 24-hours a day work hours can vary with technicians and assistants are often required to work odds hours (nights, evenings and weekends). Therefore, there are many opportunities to work part-time in 24-hour pharmacies. In addition, a percentage of both technicians and assistants work part time because they are studying to become pharmacists.

States have traditionally required a one-to-one ratio of pharmacist to technician but that is also expected to change. Mark Boesen, Director of Government and Student Affairs for the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, has stated that: “Many of the major employers of technicians are expanding the number of their facilities and boards of pharmacy in some States are allowing the legal ratio of technicians to pharmacists to expand. This is a very promising field to work in.”

An increasing demand for technicians with greater responsibility has prompted some States to revise their one-to-one ratio of pharmacist to technician to two or three technicians per pharmacist.

As pharmacy technicians take on more and more tasks previously performed by pharmacists, they must also learn and master new technology. A good example is the increased use (by many pharmacies) of robotic machines to dispense medicines. Technicians will be required to oversee the machine, stock bins and label containers.