The role of a pharmacy technician is varied, and the responsibilities are determined by the pharmacy setting in which the technician practices. A pharmacy technician is a health professional who plays an integral role in the pharmacy.
by Michelle Goeking, BM, CPhT
In all settings, a pharmacy technician assists the pharmacist in distributing medication to patients, whether working at a retail or hospital pharmacy.
A technician cannot dispense any medication without a pharmacist’s approval and may not consult any patient regarding their medications.
However, a pharmacy technician is vital in pharmacy operations.
In a retail or community setting such as a department store or chain drug store pharmacy, a pharmacy technician has many responsibilities.
It is important for you to check with the State Board of Pharmacy of the state in which you live to determine any licensing or certification requirements. This board also dictates the specific tasks that a pharmacy technician can perform.
But in general, the role of a pharmacy technician may include the following tasks:
Though the role of a pharmacy technician may sound simple, the technician has to be able to interpret written prescriptions, perform pharmacy calculations, and maintain efficiency and accuracy even when the pharmacy is very busy.
The technician is responsible for answering phone calls from customers or physicians, as well as resolving issues with insurance companies.
Depending on the state in which the pharmacy technician practices, the technician may also take new or refill prescription orders over the telephone. Though there are many duties and responsibilities, the main obligation is to provide good customer service through compassion and efficiency.
The role of a pharmacy technician in an institutional or hospital setting may be slightly different than a retail technician. If working in an outpatient pharmacy where patients pick up their prescriptions to take home, the duties of a pharmacy technician are similar to those in retail.
Conversely, an inpatient pharmacy provides medicine to all the patients in the hospital, including those in the emergency room, operating room, or outpatient sites. The inpatient pharmacy has little direct contact with patients, but does most of its communication with the nurses or physicians on staff by telephone or electronically. Medication orders usually come to the pharmacy through a fax machine, pneumatic tube system, or more recently, electronically.
Some inpatient pharmacy facilities allow pharmacy technicians to input these orders, but all facilities require the pharmacy technician to fill medications for these orders. Technicians in these facilities also must be able to interpret medical orders and perform pharmacy calculations related to the job. Technology has played a huge role in the institutional pharmacy setting, so a pharmacy technician in this capacity will be trained to fill and troubleshoot the automated medication dispensers found in patient areas.
In inpatient pharmacy settings, pharmacy technicians are also required to make IVs, which requires special training in aseptic technique (a sterile method to prevent contamination of IVs) and clean room procedures. Simple billing and inventory is usually performed by pharmacy technicians, but another department takes care of insurance information.
In summary, the roles of a pharmacy technician is dependent on the type of pharmacy. To become a pharmacy technician, one would need to consult the State Board of Pharmacy of the state in which you intend to practice to determine any licensing or certification requirements.
Learn more from another of our experts: What is a pharmacy technician?
Michelle Goeking (BM, CPhT) has been a practicing pharmacy technician for 16 years in both community and hospital settings. She has 5 years of experience creating and directing a pharmacy technician education program at a community college, as well as writing PTCE test items for various publishers. Michelle is currently enrolled in a doctor of pharmacy program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a practicing pharmacy intern.