Careers in Pharmacy – What Should I Pursue?

Pharmacies generally employ two types of professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. While both are integral to a pharmacy’s performance, they represent two very different approaches to careers in pharmacy. When deciding what career path is right for you, a lot of factors come into play. In this article, we will outline these two careers in pharmacy so you can make the right choice!

Pharmacist- What is It?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are in charge of dispensing prescription medications to patients. Typically, a pharmacist will fill prescriptions, check interactions of a patient’s prescriptions, instruct patients on proper use of a medication, and oversee pharmacy technician, interns, and various other careers in pharmacy. Many pharmacists own or manage their own pharmacy and are more business minded. Some pharmacists work for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and are involved in the creation of new medications. The median annual wage of pharmacists is very good, punching in at $111,570 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacist?

The path to becoming a pharmacist is unique- while most graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate experience, a Doctor of Pharmacy program requires as little as two, as long as the appropriate prerequisites are met, such as courses in chemistry, anatomy, and biology (although some programs do require a bachelor’s degree). An entrance exam, known as the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), is also required. Most programs will take about four years to complete, and graduates who want a more advanced pharmacist position will complete a one-two year residency program. Many pharmacists who go on to own their own pharmacies will also acquire a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Graduates must also pass two exams detailing pharmacy skills and pharmacy law in order to attain a state license. While this process may seem long, it pays off with one of the most rewarding careers in pharmacy.

Pharmacy Technician- What is It?

Pharmacy (or pharmaceutical) technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients. They will usually be the ones measuring out prescriptions, compounding medications like ointments, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals, and performing routine tasks like answering phones and filling forms. The pharmacy technician will work under the supervision of the pharmacist- if the customer has questions about medications or health, the pharmacy technician will arrange for the customer to speak with the pharmacist, as he/she is the more trained of the two careers in pharmacy. Technicians must have great customer service skills, organizational skills, and be detail oriented. The median annual wage of a pharmacy technician was $28,400 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacy Technician?

Becoming a pharmacy technician provides the simpler process of the two careers in pharmacy. Each technician must have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an exam or complete a formal training program, depending on the state. Many pharmacy technicians will learn their skills on-site, but some will attend vocational schools or community colleges to complete programs in pharmacy technology. These programs detail arithmetic, pharmacy law and ethics, and record keeping. This path will allow for the quickest work straight out of high school for graduates pondering one of the careers in pharmacy.

Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are absolutely vital to a pharmacy. These two positions are dynamic and rewarding, constantly helping patients get their medications. I hope this article has helped you decide which of the careers in pharmacy is right for you!

Choosing an Independent Pharmacy Over a Retail Pharmacy

Over the years independent pharmacies are being taken over by chain and retail pharmacies and the patients are not in favor, working in an independently owned pharmacy for years I have heard all the complaints. Independent pharmacies are based solely on the patients and their needs. Customer service is the number one priority at independent pharmacies. They provide services and opportunities that chain stores would never think of trying. Seeing how independent pharmacies are becoming less popular is not good for the future of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry is turning into warehouse style system with no customer service or face-to-face consulting of medications.

By taking away independent pharmacies your taking away well trained professionals who educate and provide information to customers about their everyday medication and the safety and dangers of them. You can walk into any independent pharmacy and have a face-to-face consultation with the pharmacist on any type of question or concern. Believe it or not people have said the pharmacist at retail pharmacies will refuse to speak with you about questions and have you call an answering service if they are too busy. Independent pharmacists not only educate patients on their medication but also provide services and information on immunizations, diabetes management and preventative screenings.

The independent pharmacists and technicians will go well beyond their way to help you handle any type of problems such as transferring your prescriptions to their pharmacy or finding out your correct insurance information. When you call a pharmacy you want to get your medications filled at and they need to be transferred some chain pharmacies can take up to forty eight hours to make the call but with independent pharmacies it will maybe take thirty minutes depending on if they can get a hold of the transferring pharmacy, it is only one simple phone call they make seem like so much work. When patients need their medicine it is normally not something they can just wait next week to pick up or until the pharmacist has “time” to transfer it, it is something they need immediately, even if it is a maintenance drug it is still not good to miss a dose and mess up your body’s routine of it. Also, independent pharmacies have a MUCH shorter wait time than chain or retail pharmacies. They tell you that sometimes it will take up to two days before they can have your medicine ready and you can’t even talk to a person when you call you have to talk to an automated machine to figure that out. In independent pharmacies if it is an easy fill or quick refill we can have you in and out within five to ten minutes.

The next thing I am going to discuss about independent pharmacies is the specialization things they can do for you. Not only do you get to personally talk to the workers and ask specific questions but they will also order things that fit your needs specifically and keep it in stock just for you. Many independent pharmacies stock all sorts of braces, compression stockings, diabetic supplies, and many other items you can’t find in a chain store. Also, they will order something for you if they do not have it, say you wanted a back brace that Velcro’s instead of snaps together; they would be more than willing to order it that day and have it in the next morning. Many independent pharmacies also compound medication, which is a huge deal especially when the manufacturer runs out of a certain medicine. For example last year when the swine flu arrived no one could order Tamiflu, the drug to treat it, but our pharmacists could compound it with the stuff he had and it prevented people of having to drive for miles to find some.

Another advantage to keeping independent pharmacies around is that most of them have a free of charge delivery service. Like the pharmacy I work at we have someone that comes in everyday and takes people who just got out of surgery, someone who is really sick, an older person who can’t drive, or someone who just can’t make it to the store before we close their medicine to them. It makes a huge difference in their day if they do not have to fight the hassle of finding ways to get there or being miserable because they are so sick. It just shows the customers that we really do care about their needs and if we are meeting them.

Another huge advantage to having independent pharmacies is around the holidays when people are taking vacations for longer than a few days and they will run out of their medicine while they are there, the pharmacy will go out of their way to call your insurance and get a vacation supple override so they can enjoy their vacation and not have to worry about how they are going to get their medicine. Also, it never fails whenever pharmacies close for the holidays there is always someone who forgets to call in their medicine before hand and they call the pharmacist at home and he is always prepared to go up to the store, just for them. I have worked at an independent pharmacy for five years and there is not a Thanksgiving or Christmas I remember when out pharmacist wasn’t up at the store for at least an hour.

After seeing all of the advantages and good independent pharmacies have done for people and how we would be affected without them, think before you go to a chain pharmacy that is trying to put these people out of business. Look at what the chains are doing to local business; they are trying to take the “healthcare” part out of pharmacy by pushing it towards being a warehouse style industry. Without independent pharmacies the healthcare industry is going to hurt.

Retail Pharmacy Technician Job Description

I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy. Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy techs in healthcare. The rest of this article will discuss the job description of pharmacy techs in a retail or community setting, and provide a bulleted list of tasks. Future articles will cover different pharmacy settings for pharmacy techs and the job descriptions and tasks associated with them as well.

Community/Retail Pharmacy: I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Specific roles that pharmacy technicians can have in a retail pharmacy include: general technician, lead technician, buying technician, compounding technician, and billing/insurance technician. In most pharmacies, pharmacy technicians are general technicians with some of the above listed skill sets. When you go into a larger and busier pharmacy, you can actually have job differentiation where people have assigned specialized tasks (based on the needs of the pharmacy).

Pharmacy technician tasks for retail pharmacies include, but are not limited to:

Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
Filling and selling prescriptions
Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
Compounding medications that are not commercially available
Ordering medications
Restocking shelves
Answering the phone
Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions

Retail pharmacies tend to get a bad rap from within the pharmacy profession. Although I prefer hospital (which will be the topic of the next article), I enjoyed my time in a retail pharmacy. I was able to get to know the customers (I like say patients) personally. It is a great feeling when a long-time customer comes to the pharmacy and you know them by name, maybe a little about their family, and most important you know their medical history. Because of this relationship, you are able to ensure that the patient’s medication regimen is optimal, as a technician you can help determine if there are generic alternatives to medications prescribed in order to help the patient save money.

In summary, retail pharmacies are the most common type of pharmacy, and therefore the place where the majority of pharmacy techs are employed. Due to an increasing elderly population (thank you baby boomers), retail pharmacies will continue to increase in demand. If you find a pleasant retail pharmacy to work in, and good staff to work with, a retail pharmacy technician position can be a positive experience.

Pharmacy Technician Job – Three Strategies For Getting A Job

As I searched on EzineArticles for pharmacy technician jobs, I found many good articles written on how to become a pharmacy technician, or various reasons why you should become a pharmacy technician. In general, they all make good points and provide useful information. It has made me think about what we are missing. I do not want to simply rehash the same topics and then add a few of my own thoughts. Then it occurred to me, I have a perspective that few people who are writing articles for pharmacy technicians have. I am the person who sits on every interview for pharmacy technicians in my institution’s inpatient pharmacy. Over the course of just one year, I probably interview about 50 to 60 technicians for about 10 to 12 openings. So here it is, what are three things you can do to get a job when you have just obtained your license/certification/registration (depends on your state), still working on your license, or maybe just moved to a new area and want to find a job (this happened to me as a pharmacy tech, and I will share one of my biggest mistakes when looking for a job)?

  1. Volunteer or complete your required hours (depends on your state requirements for licensure/certification) in a pharmacy practice site you would like to work. Many states require you to obtain practice hours before you become a pharmacy technician. If your state does not require hours prior to becoming a pharmacy technician, then pick a set number of hours (40 to 80 hours should do it) and volunteer at a pharmacy. The pharmacy you choose should be a place you would like to work. If you know you want to work in a hospital pharmacy, then do not obtain your hours or volunteer at a community/retail pharmacy. Next, take advantage of this time by showing your practice site how good of a pharmacy technician you are. The traits I look for the most are someone who is a team player, proactive about taking on any work that he/she sees needs completing, and gets a long with other staff. I am looking for is a good fit, not necessarily the smartest tech, but the one who will be a good team member. What this time really amounts to is a trial period where the pharmacy gets to see how you work and you get to see if you really want a job there. I have had a few students who goof off or text for a large portion of their time in my pharmacy. Unfortunately, they will not even make the interview list for the next open position.
  2. Obtain national certification, BLS/CPR, and be active in one of your state’s pharmacy organizations; and make sure you have these items on your resume. Regardless if your state requires you to get nationally certified or not, you should do it. The two major national certifications that are most recognized are the PTCB and the ExCPT. BLS/CPR (basic life support/cardiopulmonary resuscitation – for the most part it is the same thing) is a good additional skill that most pharmacy managers will consider a bonus. It tells them that the applicant is engaged in healthcare and will more likely be engaged as a pharmacy technician. State pharmacy organization (either the state ASHP affiliate or APhA affiliate) participation is another way to show your commitment to the pharmacy profession. In most states, it cost very little to be a member as a technician. Once you are a member, look for the Website link on joining a committee. If you have options, join the committee that sounds like the most fun (I personally like advocacy or legislative). Now be active in your committee, this is a great way to network with pharmacists and other technicians. Pharmacy is a small world, the more connections you make, the better off you will be. Once you have done some or all of this, make sure your update you resume.
  3. Look on company Websites for job openings and not just the local newspaper or online newspaper site. This was my big mistake. After living on the east coast for many years I moved out to the west coast. I began looking for jobs in the local newspaper and there were a few, but not the ones I was most interested in (I was a sterile compounding tech and wanted to work in a hospital or IV infusion setting) were never open. Fortunately for me, a large health-system (the one I currently still work for after 11 years) was hiring a graveyard technician and didn’t get enough applicants from their internal site so they placed a newspaper ad. After I got a job, I found out about the company job postings Website, and I was seriously bummed that I had wasted months not looking in the right place. While you are on the company Website, do some homework about the company so that you can speak about the company during your interview. I will typically ask applicants why they want a job with my company or pharmacy, if you can respond with an answer that shows you have done some homework on the company, that will impress most interviewers (do not over do it or be cheesy, find something you genuinely like about the company).

I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or topics for additional articles, please send them to me by submitting a comment on my Website listed in the author box.