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Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technician is a job title for a pharmacy staff member "who works under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist, and performs many pharmacy-related functions." [1] In most cases, job duties include providing medication and other health care products to patients. Pharmacy technicians often do the routine tasks associated with preparing prescribed medication and providing drugs to patients, and may also do compounding of medications. However, pharmacists check all medications before they go to the patient, and only pharmacists may counsel patients on the proper use of medications. In the Uk however, training and continuing professional development is such that pharmacy technicians are qualified to counsel patients on their medication and indeed specialist technicians participate in the running of anticoagulant clinics, dosing warfarin patients under dose banding guidance. In hospital pharmacy especially, pharmacy technicians generally oversee the operational management of the dispensary and manufacturing units, freeing the pharmacists to participate and develop extended clinical pharmacy roles, such as independent prescribing etc.

Training and certification

Most pharmacy technicians have only on-the-job training, but many employers favor those who have completed a formal training and certification process. The largest national certification exams in the United States are given by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) and Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). The exam given by ICPT is called the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). Completing one of these exams earns the technician the credentials "CPhT", corresponding to the professional title of Certified Pharmacy Technician. As of 2002, in the United States, there were no U.S. federal (and few state) laws making it mandatory for all technicians employed to meet this qualifying standard. However, some non-federal jurisdictions do require licensing such as the state of Virginia. Many are required to register or become licensed in most states, and pass a state examination administered by the state board of pharmacy; regardless of whether they pass the national exam by ICPT or PTCB. Massachusetts requires passing the state pharmacy board exam regardless of ICPT or PTCB.

Pharmacy technician training programs are offered by the military, some hospitals, proprietary schools, vocational or technical colleges, and community colleges. These prepare the student for a pharmacy technician exam (usually the ExCPT or PTCB exam) and often include labs and an "externship" so the student can gain real-world pharmacy experience.

In the United Kingdom and many other countries, there are accredited programs which pharmacy technicians must complete. In the UK this is composed of an 'on the job' qualification (an NVQ level 3); and a theory based qualification (BTEC) usually completed on day-release at college or by correspondence course. Within the next few years (probably around 2008) "pharmacy technician" will become a protected job title in the UK and only those with both qualifications will be allowed to use this title by law.

Job duties

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations. According to a 2002 United States Department of Labor report, about two-thirds worked in retail pharmacies, both independently owned or part of a drugstore, grocery store or mass retailer chain. An additional 22% of pharmacy technician jobs were in hospitals, while a small portion worked in mail-order or Internet pharmacies, clinics, pharmaceutical wholesalers, and the Federal Government. The mix in the UK is of a similar balance.

Responsibilities of a pharmacy technician differ depending on location. In many operations, they may manage assistants or do the work of pharmacy aides: answering telephone calls, handling money, stocking shelves, and computer data entry, among other odd jobs. In a hospital, these jobs will be the responsibility of a pharmacy assistant and the Technician will have roles of higher responsibility.

Pharmacy technicians who work in a hospital, nursing home or assisted-living-type facilities have additional responsibilities. In many circumstances, they will read patient charts in conjunction with a prescription, verified by both a physician and a pharmacist, before preparing and physically delivering medicine to nurses, who administer it to patients. Technicians may also be responsible for managing robotic organizational systems that stock and organize 24-hour supplies of medicine for every patient in a health care facility. Technicians package and label each dose of medication separately, either by hand or with packaging machines. These packages are coordinated with a computer using bar codes, and make it possible to automate pharmacy-side drug delivery: a package labeled by name, dose and expiration is cataloged in a computer, before being placed on a shelf controlled by a robotic arm until it is needed to be given to a patient. Some robots will create small containers for an individual patient that contain the medicine needed for a defined time period. Groups of these containers are then organized by pharmacy technicians and delivered to appropriate locations.

The role of the technician is likely to increase in the next few years, as more pressures are put on pharmacists to be available to consult and advise patients, rather than to simply dispense.

Certified Pharmacy Technicians are skilled workers in the field of allied health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacy Technicians earn salaries approximate to those in other entry level allied health positions, such as surgical techs, LPN's, and physical therapist assistants.

  • PTCB Study Group
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Pharmacy Technician Occupational Outlook Report
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain - information about registration of pharmacy technicians
  • The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK - the professional and representative organisation for pharmacy technicians working in the UK
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pharmacy_technician". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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