A pharmacy technician or pharmacy tech is an allied healthcare professional who assists a licensed pharmacist with the preparations of prescriptions and the administration of a pharmacy. Many pharmacies rely on pharmacy techs to do a variety of tasks, since these healthcare professionals are less expensive to hire than pharmacists, and they can be found working in retail as well as hospital pharmacies. Employment prospects for pharmacy technicians are very good, as the demand for pharmacy workers tends to remain very steady.
In some nations, people must be licensed to work as a pharmacy tech, in which case they receive some training and take a certification exam. Other nations do not require licensure, but optional licensing programs such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) in the United States offer people the opportunity to get certified. Certification can make a pharmacy tech more employable as it demonstrates that he or she has a number of basic skills which are considered important for pharmacy work.
In the pharmacy, a pharmacy tech receives incoming prescriptions, checks them for accuracy, and prepares them. Pharmacy techs can count out or measure medication and dispense labels, while compounding needs to be done by a pharmacist. Techs can also manage the pharmacy inventory, make orders, run cash registers, and perform other administrative tasks, which takes a load of work off a pharmacist so that he or she can concentrate on complex drug formulations and other issues. In inpatient facilities like nursing homes and hospitals, techs can also deliver medications to patients.
A pharmacy tech cannot offer information or advice to patients. When patients ask for information about medication, they must be referred to a pharmacist. However, pharmacy techs often acquire a great deal of knowledge about pharmaceutical products, and they may do things like drawing a pharmacist's attention to a potential drug conflict, or to a dosage which seems odd or inappropriate for a patient. In this sense, pharmacy techs act as one of the many barriers designed to prevent medication errors.
Salaries for pharmacy techs vary, depending on training, certification, and level of experience. Working for a pharmacy can come with healthcare benefits, a distinct advantage, and many pharmacies will pay for continuing education to keep their employees well trained and motivated to stay. Some people who work as pharmacy techs ultimately decide to go into careers as pharmacists, and their employers may help them pursue this goal.