Pharmacy technician
Laboratory & Medical Technical

Working within a community pharmacy setting under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, and as part of a pharmacy team, pharmacy technicians prepare and supply medicines to patients and medical providers. These professionals, who are also known as pharmaceutical technicians or, in some cases, dispensing assistants, also assist pharmacists with the provision advisory services. When working in hospitals, as part of healthcare teams, pharmacy technicians tend to have a more specialist job, which can include manufacturing and preparing medicines.

Work Activities

A pharmacy technician's typical day-to-day responsibilities can be broadly split into four categories:

Prescription drug administration

  • Preparing medicines, which may involve putting together ointments and medicines or weighing ingredients, measuring liquids and counting tablets
  • Dispensing prescription drugs and other healthcare products to patients as directed by the pharmacist
  • Ensuring prescriptions are legal and accurate

Customer or patient service

  • Responding to patients' queries and arranging appointments with the pharmacist where necessary
  • Offering advice and educational materials to patients about their conditions and medications

Clerical duties

  • Answering phones, placing orders and operating a cash register
  • Collecting, sorting and evaluating patients' medical information
  • Submitting billing paperwork
  • Maintaining an electronic database of customer and prescription information
  • Selling over-the-counter medicines

Stock control

  • Ordering medications as directed by the pharmacist
  • Receiving, loading and unloading deliveries
  • Keeping abreast of stock levels and informing pharmacist when orders are needed
  • Delivering medicines to other parts of a hospital (applies to hospital-based pharmacy technicians)

Pharmacy technicians typically work on average 37.5 hours per week across day, evening and weekend shifts. Some employers operate a shift system, which means employees will take turns to work unsociable hours and during the weekend. Part-time hours are also available.

Pharmacy technicians who are based in a community pharmacy do not tend to travel as part of their job. Their hospital-based counterparts are usually based in a single location as well, but may work across different teams and departments within the hospital.

Hygiene, cleanliness, safety and presentation are of the upmost importance when working as a pharmacy technician, so those working in this role will be expected to wear a uniform or protective clothing during working hours; these will be provided by the employer.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills and attributes for pharmacy technicians

  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • IT proficient and confident using databases
  • Proficient in maths and science
  • Methodical, organised and able to juggle responsibilities
  • Listening skills and able follow instructions
  • Able to understand law and guidelines on medicines
  • Ability to work with people from all walks of life
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Customer service

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy technicians usually work as part of healthcare or pharmacy teams in hospitals or community pharmacies respectively. Some work in pharmacies based in retail outlets, such as supermarkets, or on the high street, or for other employers that provide NHS services. Perhaps less commonly known employers of pharmacy technicians are the Royal Air Force and HM Prison Service.

Opportunities for progression

Similar to other job roles within the field of health science, pharmacy technicians are able to move up in their profession. Typical routes for progression differ, depending on whether you work within healthcare or retail. A hospital-based technician, for instance, will likely embark on further study and specialise after gaining experience. In, say, a community pharmacy or in the retail sector, on the other hand, a pharmacy technician is more likely to move into managerial roles or take a lead in boosting the business through sales and marketing.

Some pharmacy technicians, after working in the field, move into research, development and production work in hospitals or the pharmaceutical industry.

Qualifications

Qualifications and training

To work as a pharmacy technician you must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (www.pharmacyregulation.org), which regulates the pharmacy profession in England, Scotland and Wales. In order to register, you will have to obtain both a GPhC-accredited knowledge-based and a GPhC-accredited competency-based qualification. A list of approved qualifications can be viewed on GPhC's website.

Additionally, in accordance with the GPhC's work experience requirements, only those who have a minimum of two years relevant work experience in the UK, as a pre-registration trainee pharmacy technician working under the supervision, direction or guidance of a pharmacist, are eligible for registration.

In addition to the qualifications above, applicants will usually need at least four GCSEs at grade C and above, including English, Maths and science, or equivalent qualifications.

In Scotland some employers require a range of National 4 and 5 including a science or a relevant NC or SVQ. For NC courses in Pharmacy Services in Scotland colleges ask for 3-4 National 5s including English, Biology or Chemistry and preferably Maths.

Other routes into the profession

Employers, including the NHS, offer traineeships for trainee pharmacy technicians. Training programmes run by hospital pharmacy departments usually last two years. Apprenticeships are another alternative route to becoming a pharmacy technician.

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