A range of options for the pharmacy tech graduate

PIT PT OptionsForGraduatesBy Jason Gray

An aging population and increasing demand for healthcare services has meant many opportunities for pharmacy technicians.

Pharmacy technicians now work in hospitals, research universities, assisted living facilities, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy chains, and of course, at the neighborhood drug store. They play a vital role in ensuring customers receive the best service.

Over the last four years, about one out of every eight jobs created in the United States was in health care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescriptions – and much more.

A technician’s day can include packaging and labeling prescriptions, measuring and stocking medicines, processing insurance claims and working with customers and doctors. The main difference between technicians and pharmacists is that the pharmacist may mix multiple medications together, directly counsel patients and ensure the prescription is ready for delivery.


The neighborhood setting and much more

The corner drugstore and pharmacy chain is where most people interact with pharmacy technicians. According to the BLS, about half the techs in the country work in pharmacies and drug stores. They execute a wide variety of daily tasks, including stocking and labeling supplies, and completing paperwork. Pharmacy technicians who enjoy retail settings and working with many people will fit well in a retail environment.

Hospitals have in-house pharmacies where they prepare life-saving drugs, IVs and other medicines. Hospital technician jobs don’t usually include the retail customer service aspects of the drugstore; however, they are often faster-paced and vitally important in patient care – often involving life-or-death situations.

Most states allow hospital pharmacy technicians to mix IV bags and oral fluid medicines in addition to counting and labeling pills like their drugstore cohorts. Working directly with life-saving medicines for everyone from chemotherapy patients to neonatal ICU newborns is one of the main draws for people who want to know their work directly impacts others.

Hospital technicians also usually deliver prepared medicines to different departments within the hospital. Technology skills are a must. The national mandatory rollout of electronic health record systems and secure automated medication carts means plenty of computer work for hospital pharmacy technicians.

Long-term care facilities, assisted living centers and nursing homes need pharmacy technicians to help track and distribute the many medicines aging residents need. These positions appeal to people who are detail-oriented and organized while not as interested in working with large numbers of customers. These techs must still work quickly and be able to multi-task. Many medicines for older patients must be taken at precise intervals that can’t be missed.


Keeping track for aging patients

Aging and memory-care facilities often have patients who are not able to remember whether they’ve taken their medicine, which makes the pharmacy technician duties of helping maintain strict records even more important. Billing paperwork can also be more complicated with government reimbursement programs and long-term care insurance companies.

Pharmacy technicians are also needed within the pharmaceutical companies themselves, especially for clinical testing phases of drug trials. They help researchers prepare test medicines for study participants. Certification graduates who are interested in research science and making a difference worldwide will find these positions rewarding. Other unusual jobs for pharmacy techs include helping answer questions at regional poison control centers, nuclear imaging and even preparing medicines for prison inmates.

As the healthcare industry continues to grow, pharmacy technicians will continue to be in demand. No matter what skills, interests or personality a certified technician graduate has, there is a niche for them to grow personally and professionally while helping patients and communities.