What it's like Working in a Pharmacy
Have you ever considered a career as a pharmacy technician? Maybe you want to be able to make a difference in people’s lives, or you simply want a better paying job then what you currently have. You have done some basic searches online about the field but aren’t sure you want to seek it further, without speaking with someone who works in the field. This is your article, I have worked in retail pharmacy for nearly a decade and have worked in busy retail locations as well as slow and know exactly what to expect. The main questions I get are what exactly do you do on a day to day basis? And, how much can you expect to make from working in a pharmacy? I will do my best to answer both of these questions
A day in the life of a Retail Pharmacy Technician
For the sake of this article we will assume that I am the very first technician to arrive for the day. The very first thing that must be done is check on any paperwork or counting that must be done. A constant inventory of the pharmacy is required for several reasons, to accomplish this most pharmacy systems will auto-generate a list of medications that must be hand counted daily. Our daily paper work prints out and is ready for us when we arrive. This paper work has tasks for us to do such as call the people who have had prescriptions ready for 7 days and inform them that if they are not there in the next few days the prescription will be put back to stock. This list can have anywhere from 5 to 30 people to call for a slow store, I worked at a busy store before that had 40+ calls every day on this list. Next we have to call the doctors for all the prescription refills that have been requested throughout the prior days and have not yet got back to us, these are not fun calls. Most of the time the nurse tells us they never received our fax, or that they did receive it and will get back to use when they can, I often feel like more of an annoyance on the office than anything else and from the tone of the voice of the nurse I probably am. We also have to call, fax, or both the doctors’ offices that we have questions for, such as "the strength of the medication the doctor wrote for doesn't exist. What does the doctor actually want?" or "The doctors handwriting is ineligible what does the prescription say?"
Later in the day our order comes in, this must be posted to our inventory then put on the shelf just like if someone were to stock anything else in the store. Depending on the size of the order this can take 20 minutes to a few hours to complete, also depending on how busy the store is the order could be smaller or larger. After all of those items are put on the shelf then we have to remove the exceptions in the computer for those items that were specifically ordered the day before for patients that the item was not in the store for.
Now if this doesn't sound like a lot it's because well it’s just the basics, there's much much more we have to do. The obvious is filling prescriptions which that process is not as simple as you would think. For instance when you hand me a prescription I have to make sure I have your correct information in the computer, then I scan the script in, type it, have it checked that I typed it correctly. If that goes fine (or is corrected to be fine) then the script prints out on a label for us to fill we then have to find the correct medication, scan the leaflet, the medicine and if its correct a label will print out. We then count the medication and recheck that it is the correct medication by verifying with the computer that we have filled what we should have. Then it is handed to the pharmacist who checks the work and will finally give their ok to then release, or sell the medication. Doesn't sound like much? Well try that same process times about 200 or more a day (which is what most would consider a slow store) and you kind of start to get the idea.
Pharmacy Technician Pay
At my company in my area a non-certified technician starts at $10.00 an hour and goes to $11.25 as soon as they get certified with a cap around $15. If they want to move up and become sort of like a manager of the technicians then they start at $12.25 an hour and can go to around $16.75 if they stay with the company for a rather long time. I am currently right around the middle ground of that pay closer to the cap then the bottom but still the middle. Looking at payscale.com for my area the average CPHT makes $12.00 whereas a sort of manager technician average is $15. So I would say if you're starting out expect to make $10 but quickly get up to at least $12 within a year or two especially after you get your certification.
Though I appreciate being able to write this article I feel it should be said that it is my hope to get out of this field sooner rather than later. Not because of the fact that I feel it is a bad field actually I think it’s a great field that is much needed and needs good people to continue in it. My heart just isn't in it anymore and that can sometimes be very bad when dealing with such an important thing as people's medications. I take my job very seriously and will continue to as long as I am there but maybe me leaving will open up the spot for one of you who are reading this who want to be there and can do so much more good then I can.