Being a retail pharmacy technician is a challenging endeavor.
Why? There are many reasons, which we’ll describe here.
We recently were contacted by someone about to go into their first job as a retail pharmacy technician.
"I am currently a pharmacy tech student and I believe I may be hired into a CVS Pharmacy soon. I'm pretty nervous about it at the moment because I haven't had much experience besides the 5 months of pharmacy tech school I've had. What could I expect while working retail? Do you have any tips to help ease my nerves?"
Here's our expert's response.
By Ellen Schaefer, CPhT, RMA, CPT
Firstly, the consumer lacks a level of control and the circumstances frequently elevate emotionally.
Secondly, drugs are expensive, dangerous if taken incorrectly, and addictive. People who come to the pharmacy arrive with illnesses, addictions, and chronic disease states.
Third, many consumers don’t have a clear picture of their prescription benefits.
So, this combination can create an unhappy customer right off the bat. A good retail pharmacy technician displays finesse, and manages difficult customers and situations with maturity and efficiency.
The retail pharmacy technician job is a difficult job to learn. A topnotch performance in school or on an exam doesn’t render a new tech job-ready.
It appears to be absolute chaos to the onlooker. It takes 6 months or more for most people to learn the process.
Here are some tips to make it easier:
Then, there are legal issues. When you hold a license/certification, it’s your responsibility to know the law. For example:
Speed is critical in retail pharmacy. You are timed on everything—answering the phone, going to the drive-thru, counting the pills, filling the prescriptions. It’s not just minutes, it’s also seconds.
Accuracy is also critical in retail pharmacy.
Both speed and accuracy can be achieved with teamwork. A great pharmacy is a great team.
Here are tips on mastering speed and accuracy:
Then, there's prescription filling.
Here’s what filling prescriptions is like…
When you are at the drop-off station (where prescriptions are filled), you are required to fill the prescriptions while the patient waits in front of you.
So while you are engaging with the customer, you are adding insurance information, inputting prescriptions, and resolving rejections.
Then the labels go to the tech in the counting area. Even though techs are at a specific station, they back up other techs. There are no uninterrupted tasks. (Get used to it, you hyper-focused folks!)
Every tech needs a rescue—be a team player.
It’s not just filling prescriptions. Inventory looms large in the pharmacy: management, ordering, returns, and recalls. There are endless calls to and from doctors, patients, and insurance companies.
As a retail pharmacy technician, everything is time sensitive.
Make it your business to learn everything. It’s often easier for the pharmacy manager to let a new tech linger in one place. Be your own advocate, and strive to learn other areas.
The survivors will forge ahead, and others will find a different path. Which group will you be in?
Ellen's bio: Ellen’s last 18 years have been devoted primarily to the elevation of her role as a retail pharmacy technician. She clearly considers her relationships with her customers/patients an honor. Although she won customer service awards from employers, she would say that her greatest recognition is from the families that express appreciation. Ellen felt she should do everything she could to share information with her customers, and always make it look easy!
As a pharmacy tech trainer and mentor, Ellen encouraged techs to study the “big picture.” Her ongoing relationships with pharmacy techs from years back is clear evidence of the respect they still place in her.
Ellen also brings a strong background in finance and human resource management to the table. In her management positions, she worked tirelessly in team building. Her approach to being a part of the medical field has always been one of respect.
She went on to nationally certify in medical assisting and phlebotomy. Most recently, she was chosen to be an Item Writing Specialist for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam.