Pharmacy Assistant Training
Become a Pharmacy Assistant
An individual who enjoys working with the public and is adept at precise calculations may enjoy working in a pharmacy as an assistant. Pharmacy assistants work in a clean, pleasant work environment alongside well-qualified professionals. They interact with people and act as part of a team. The pharmacy assistant works closely with a pharmacist and is usually trained on the job.
No federal requirements exist for this position, and most states do not require licensure. While no formal requirements exist, some employers may prefer to hire pharmacy technicians who have completed a formal course of study in an accredited school. This may include 600 hours of training. Earning certification by passing the boards is another way for prospective pharmacy assistants and technicians to show their qualifications.
Most pharmacy assistants spend the bulk of their work hours standing. They also may lift boxes weighing about 40 pounds and climb ladders to retrieve needed items. They often inventory both prescription and non-prescription drugs and re-stock shelves. In retail establishments, they also act as cashiers.
Many pharmacy assistants hold down the job part time while completing their education for work either as certified pharmacy technicians or as fully licensed pharmacists.
Job Duties of Pharmacy Assistants
In most states, pharmacy assistants must work under the close supervision of pharmacists. The assistants read prescription refill or origination requests. They locate the proper medication and count or pour out the proper amount of medication. They weigh and measure as necessary. Sometimes they mix medications. They choose an appropriate container and label it properly. The prescription is then checked for accuracy by the pharmacist.
Once the prescription is ready, the assistant prices and files it, and may update the patient’s records. Other duties may include cleaning the area. Pharmacy assistants in hospitals and nursing facilities may deliver medication to patients.
Most pharmacy assistants receive their training while performing the job, often by shadowing an employee with more experience. To do well in this job, individuals need good interpersonal skills and the ability to work as a member of a team. They must be able to understand and follow directions. They need good basic academic skills in math, reading and spelling.
To be hired as a pharmacy assistant, an individual must have a clean record, in particular one that is free from a history of theft or drug abuse. They need to be observant and able to accurately perform repetitive tasks. Good pharmacy assistants are well organized, reliable and efficient. They often work under pressure due to a large amount of business being transacted during a typical day.
Some employers also want new pharmacy assistants to be able to type well and operate office equipment. Money handling skills are important. Since time is required for the employee to learn policies, procedures and techniques, most employers will seek personnel who express a commitment to staying with the job for at least a few years.
Employment Outlook and Compensation
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in this job category are expected to increase at an average rate as compared with other employment. Pay varies by region, ranging from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour in 1999. Pharmacy assistants can likely expect to earn more than this currently. As a general rule, hospitals will pay a higher rate, especially for evening and weekend work.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Pharmacy assistants who want to enhance their skills and become technicians would do well to find an accredited school that offers this training. The American Society of Health System Pharmacists has accredited schools with appropriate programs. The organization also has its own training program of 600 hours.
Certification as a pharmacy technician can be obtained by passing the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. Information on this can be obtained from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The multiple-choice test covers working with pharmacists to serve patients; medication and inventory; and administration.
Technicians are assuming more and more responsibility in order to free pharmacists to provide direct patient assistance and advice. Those who become certified are able to command better pay and to take advantage of advancement opportunities.
Further Information About Pharmacy Assistants and Technicians
The certification board provides a National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination Candidate Handbook. Interested personnel go online to PTCH.org or write to:
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
2215 Constitution Avenue, NW.
Washington, DC 20037-2985
Becoming a pharmacy assistant or technician can provide an exciting opportunity to assist patients and work alongside qualified professionals in a pleasant work environment.