Healthcare training is the first step to becoming a healthcare worker. However, some healthcare workers are better know than than others. Take the doctor, nurse, or medical assistant, for example. We learn about these professions from a young age. We fall sick and a parent takes us to the doctor’s office or the hospital. We first see the medical assistant, and then maybe a nurse, and then finally the doctor. We’re set on the path towards getting better. Occasionally, during this experience, particularly the good ones, something clicks inside of us and we say to ourselves — When I’m older, I’d like to do that! I’d like to help people feel better too!
As a child, we may not have had the same revelation when it comes to the profession of retail pharmacy technician. After all, it’s our parent picking up the prescription from the pharmacy. We’re at home, ill and waiting for the medication. We don’t see the retail pharmacy technician at work contributing as much to our health and well-being as the doctor, nurse, or medical assistant.
Even when we’re older and picking up our own prescription, we’re still prone to forgetting that the retail pharmacy technician is an important member of our ready-to-go ‘healthcare team.’ This oversight may be because this particular healthcare provider seems removed from the healing process, stationed behind a counter in the corner of a Walgreens or CVS, for instance. It can seem like they’re not working in healthcare at all. But, of course, the retail pharmacy technician is every bit the healthcare provider as the doctor, nurse, or medical assistant.
Now that you’ve made the decision to work in healthcare, it would be a mistake to not consider the healthcare training you may not about — the pharmacy tech program. Because as a retail pharmacy technician (commonly the first working step in a pharmacy technician career), there’s no two ways about it — you’re absolutely a healthcare provider. Every day, you’re handling patient medications, interacting with patients and performing you work in a healthcare setting.
A Pharmacy Tech Program Will Train You in Handling Patient Medications
Did you know that a retail pharmacy technician has more hands-on contact with a patient’s medication than the patient’s doctor? Remember, the doctor only prescribes the patient’s medication. It’s the retail pharmacy technician (under the supervision of the pharmacist) who assists in distributing the patient’s medication.
A retail pharmacy technician will handle prescription medications in the following ways:
- By filling and labeling prescription bottles
- By compounding specialty medications
- By distributing medications to patients
- By managing inventory
In fact, the retail pharmacy technician is assisting patients with their medications on an a huge level. Walgreens Pharmacy, for instance, reports that they filled an average of 928 million prescriptions (including immunizations) every 30-days in 2016.
Patient Interaction Is an Everyday Occurrence for the Retail Pharmacy Technician
Customers have come to the retail pharmacy after visiting their primary healthcare provider. They are unwell. They are looking to the pharmacist and the pharmacy technician to provide them with the medication prescribed to them by their doctor. As such, the pharmacy technician is interacting with patients every day.
A retail pharmacy technician will interact with patients in the following ways:
- By data-entering customer prescriptions
- By receiving prescription payments from customers
- By answering patient phone calls about their prescriptions
- By distributing medications to patients with pharmacist approval
- By communicating with doctor’s offices and public and private health insurance agencies
In performing these duties, the retail pharmacy technician will demonstrate the communication skills required to ensure that the patient is safe, comfortable, and cared for, in no lesser way than the patient’s doctor.
Yes, a Retail Pharmacy Is a Healthcare Setting
From the outside looking in, it may not at first appear to the casual observer that a retail pharmacy is a healthcare setting. However, behind the counter where you pick up your prescriptions, it’s every inch the same controlled environment as the doctor’s office or hospital award.
Consider these points: pharmacists and pharmacy technicians wear scrubs; proper hand hygiene is practiced, especially when compounding pharmaceuticals; working areas are kept clean and disinfected; patient medical information is kept confidential in accordance with HIPAA laws; and patient waiting areas are kept safe.
And if you didn’t know, your pharmacy technician career isn’t limited to working within the healthcare setting of a retail pharmacy. With training and experience, a pharmacy technician can work in more obvious healthcare settings, such as a hospital, a long-term pharmacy, a home healthcare pharmacy, and even a veterinary pharmacy.
As you take the time to research possible healthcare careers, don’t forget the important role the retail pharmacy technician plays in providing people with healthcare. It could be that a pharmacy tech program is the first step to a healthcare career that’s perfect for you; one you may not have know about.
A healthcare career that would have caused you to say as a child (if only you’d known) — when I’m older, I’d like to that! I’d like to help people feel better too!
BAMA is proud to partner with Walgreens to provide students with a 240-hour, on-the-job
clinical pharmacy technician externship at one of the largest drugstore chains in the US.