Right prescriptions: Five key qualities of a pharma technician

PIT PT Career SkillsBy Magaly Olivero

A successful career as a pharmacy technician requires a combination of technical and interpersonal skills to deliver safe and effective patient care.

As assistants to licensed pharmacists, pharmacy technicians help dispense medication to customers or health care professionals. They work in many settings, including national retail pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufactures and distributors.

Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for other occupations nationwide, according to national labor statistics. Graduates with an associate degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. They may also pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

Successful pharmacy technicians posses the following qualities:

 

Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians must fill prescriptions, mix medications, assign dosages, prepare intravenous solutions and more. All these tasks require an unprecedented attention to detail to ensure the highest quality and safety standards. Critical thinking skills, along with a strict adherence to protocol, are key. Making careless mistakes when dispensing medication can pose serious and potentially life-threatening consequences to the physical and mental health of a patient.

 

Communication skills

Strong interpersonal skills are critical to the success of a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians must effectively communicate with many, different people, including patients and family members, pharmacists, prescribing doctors, and other health care professionals. Those who work in a retail setting must be adept at communicating with and educating customers to ensure they properly understand their medication regimen. Pharmacy technicians who work in a health care setting must be comfortable collaborating with a wide range of colleagues.

 

Empathy

Demonstrating compassion is an essential component of being a pharmacy technician, especially for those who work with customers in a retail environment. It’s important to recognize when patients may be under duress. Perhaps someone is dealing with a serious diagnosis, worrying about how they will pay for their medications, or struggling to manage debilitating side effects. Each of these encounters may require a different and sensitive response. The right response may have a great benefit to patient care.

 

Mathematical skills

Preparing prescriptions correctly – such as determining the correct strength of a solution or the usual dosage of a medication – may require making many different mathematical calculations. Pharmacy technicians must be accurate and precise when it comes to calculating, weighing and measuring chemicals as they prepare medications and solutions. Adding an extra zero to a prescription can turn a helpful treatment into a dangerous one. Pharmacy technicians must ensure that medications are filled correctly every time.

 

Ethical behavior

A commitment to ethical behavior is important because pharmacy technicians have access to confidential information about patients’ medical history. They also must uphold standards of practice and legal restrictions associated with dispensing medication.