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Pharmacy Assistant


Did you know that years ago, pharmacies were also soda shops where one could get a cola float prepared by the pharmacist and a prescription for medication at the same time? A lot has changed since those days, especially for the role of the pharmacy assistant. Pharmacy assistants once poured sodas and helped pharmacists with any duties that would arise. Today, pharmacy assistants help pharmacists dispense medication and other health care products to patients. Sometimes called pharmacy technicians, their titles are sometimes interchangeable, depending on where they work.

It is their job to ensure that consumers receive their proper drug prescriptions as safely and quickly as possible. Their duties are quite similar to pharmacists; the only difference is that they are legally not allowed to counsel customers or patients and pharmacists have the final word on everything.

Pharmacy assistants review prescriptions and refill requests that they receive from patients. Next they fill the prescriptions by counting, pouring, measuring, or mixing the medication. Then they select a container and prepare and affix a label. Some pharmacies now have information pamphlets that they print out to go along with the medication, which will include the side effects, proper dosage, what to take the pills with (for example, water or on an empty stomach), if the medication conflicts with any other medications or foods, and any other important information that a person needs to know before taking a drug. Next, they price and file the prescription, which must be carefully checked by a pharmacist before given to a patient.

Pharmacy assistants may also set up and maintain patient profiles. These are files that give a patient's medication history and are often stored on a computer. Therefore, the next time the patient comes into the store or to the hospital, the pharmacy assistant can enter his or her name and find out what types of medications they have taken in the past. This will help the pharmacist decide what is appropriate.

Pharmacy assistants also fill out insurance claim forms and count inventory of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Again, they enter this information into the computer so it can be reviewed and supplies ordered. In addition to these duties, pharmacy assistants are required to stay current with new medications, including their generic names, special precautions and other information for dosages. This is crucial because all medications are taken for a reason, which is usually related to health. Therefore, there is no room for mistakes as they are dealing with people's lives.
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Brookline College Online

Get hands-on training with Brookline College. We offer diploma and degree programs in the areas of health care, business, nursing, criminal justice, paralegal, and computer security.

Programs Offered:
  • Diploma - Pharmacy Technician



  Interests and Skills  
Pharmacy assistants must have a genuine interest in people from all walks of life. They need good communication skills, and tact and good judgment. They must be able to work under pressure with a high degree of integrity, assisting pharmacists. They must also enjoy working with others and should have the desire to keep up to date with new ideas and advances in the pharmaceutical sciences.

Pharmacy assistants should enjoy performing tasks requiring precision and organization. They should also be able to follow the directions of pharmacists.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare and label prescriptions
  • Prepare sterile intravenous solutions and other sterile products and clean and sterilize dispensing bottles and instruments
  • Prepare extemporaneous compounds
  • Maintain computerized prescription and inventory record-keeping systems
  • Prepare and reconcile third party insurance claims and records
  • Maintain proper storage and security conditions for drugs
  • Maintain inventories and place orders for stock
  • Price stock and mark items for sale
  • Direct customers to items or the pharmacist for medication consultation
  • Receive written prescriptions
  • Answer questions regarding non-drug products, merchandise products and services
  • Pharmacy assistants may work long and irregular hours, sometimes under stressful conditions. The work is demanding and requires accuracy. There is no room for error as you are dealing with people's lives and health conditions. Pharmacy assistants spend most of the day standing and they work in clean, well-lit but often crowded and busy surroundings.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Pharmacy assistants work in community settings such as neighborhood pharmacies, chain pharmacies and department store pharmacies, and hospitals and related institutions such as seniors' lodges and nursing homes. They may also work for related organizations such as pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance companies, drug wholesalers and pharmacy supply companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Most pharmacy assistants begin working as assistants and then advance to the technician level as they gain experience. Advancement for pharmacy assistants is limited to supervising a pharmacy. Otherwise, some may enroll in pharmacy school and become pharmacists.

  Educational Paths  
Employers usually prefer to hire applicants for pharmacy assistant positions who are graduates of a related training program or who have pharmacy experience. Computer literacy and keyboarding skills are essential. Most community colleges offer pharmacy technician programs.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Brookline College Online

Get hands-on training with Brookline College. We offer diploma and degree programs in the areas of health care, business, nursing, criminal justice, paralegal, and computer security.

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All-State Career - Allied Health
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Wichita Technical Institute
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