The proper skill set is imperative in any career, including pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy techs tend to work in a complex environment that requires them to understand business concepts, regulatory laws, insurance practices, science, and customer service.
Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations. For example, a pharmacy technician might work in a retail store or a hospital. Understanding what it takes to be an effective pharmacy technician is critical when deciding if this is the right career path for you. What skills will you need?
You can classify the skills necessary to be a good pharmacy technician into two categories:
Personal or soft skills
Task or technical skills
Personal skills are inherent to you, not what you necessarily learn. For example, a sense of responsibility is an inherent personal skill. You can learn to be more responsible as part of your training, but you must have that underlying need and desire for it to work effectively. Problem-solving skills are also inherent but can also be developed.
Task-related skills are what you learn so you can be good at your job. Having a good understanding of technology and computer systems is a task-related skill. For example, a pharmacy technician must be able to learn the computer system quickly and be proficient at using it.
Technical skills are also those that relate directly to working in pharmacies. For example, the ability to calculate a proper dose is a specialized skill. You can learn these things as part of your pharmacy certification education and training.
The combination of these two skill categories is what makes someone an effective pharmacy tech.
At the top of the list of must-have skills is good communication. Effective communication falls under the category of personal skills. However, it is more than just being able to talk to people and make yourself heard.
An effective communicator has empathy and compassion. Pharmacy technicians work with patients, consumers, and pharmacists. They need to be interactive and friendly but also concise and accurate. People can be taught to be better public speakers, but empathy is inherent and a necessary tool for the pharmacy technician who deals with patients who may not feel well or staff who are overworked.
Along with empathy, a pharmacy technician needs to be able to explain directions clearly and discuss costs with healthcare consumers. They must also be able to practice active listening and answer customer questions. In addition, they may have to resolve conflicts with healthcare providers, patients, and insurance companies.
The communication skills necessary to be a pharmacy technician go beyond verbal. The technician needs practical written skills, too. For example, they may have to submit insurance claims in writing and write out medication instructions for patients.
Soft skills (interpersonal, communication, etc.) are the things that make you who you are and are critical to your role as a pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy technician skills start with attention to detail and accuracy. Even a small error can be severe when dealing with medication. Pharmacy technicians must also double-check facts that may affect a patient's health.
The world of pharmaceuticals is fluid. Medications, the patient’s needs, or regulatory laws and compliance rules often change. Therefore, pharmacy technicians need to be able to adapt to and implement changes quickly.
Pharmacy technicians work with medications and personal information. Therefore, pharmacists expect their technicians to adhere to a code of ethics that helps ensure the safety of both the pharmacy staff and the patients.
Problem-solving and analytical thinking are necessary to help resolve conflicts and improve accuracy. A pharmacy technician must be consistent and systemic as they manage critical data, record information, and provide patients with written and verbal guidance.
Working in a pharmacy can be high volume, and that can mean there are stressful moments. Add long hours of standing and multitasking, and it's not hard to see why stress management is a necessary skill. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for lives and critical data, so managing a busy environment calmly and accurately is essential.
Task-related and technical skills are part of a pharmacy technician certification program and training. When hiring, employers look for these pharmacy technician skills on resumes.
The healthcare industry has a language, and understanding the terminology is necessary for a pharmacy technician. Comprehensive knowledge of the terminology allows technicians to be more accurate in their work and explain things to patients clearly.
That terminology extends to the insurance industry, too. There are necessary billing codes that, if inaccurate, may affect how much a consumer must pay for a prescription.
This skill would include a working knowledge of the brand and generic medications. A healthcare provider might list a brand medication when a generic one is available. The pharmacy technician must be able to recognize this and see if a generic option exists for the patient. Generic medicines tend to cost the patient and the insurance provider less.
The ability to correctly calculate a dose is a life-or-death skill for pharmacy techs. They might need to calculate a 90-day supply of a medication based on a formula, for example.
Pharmacy technicians must be able to convert measurements to the metric system as well. Medication dosages rely on kilograms, not pounds, for instance. Making an incorrect math calculation could mean someone takes too much or too little of a medication.
Pharmacies use computer programs to dispense medication. Therefore, pharmacy technicians must understand how to operate and maintain these critical systems.
In addition, pharmacy techs in high volume or mail order pharmacies may be required to use and maintain specialized equipment, such as packaging machines that allow patients to receive medications in pouches that are sorted by dosage. This method benefits pharmacies since it can increase the number of prescriptions filled per patient. First, however, technicians must learn how to use the automated packaging technology.
Pharmacies with a large volume of prescriptions may rely on robotic or automated dispensing systems. This technology can reduce healthcare costs and save lives. However, someone working in a large pharmacy will need to understand the mechanisms behind these machines and how to use them correctly.
Technicians must understand correct medicine storage conditions. They should be able to recommend other sources of supplies while also knowing how to return expired or damaged medications. If a supply of drugs expires, a pharmacy technician must learn to restock those supplies to ensure customers and patients have the medicines they need when they need them.
Finding the right pharmacy technician training program can help prepare you for the career you want.
The Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP) takes as few as 36 weeks of on-campus classes to complete. Our McAllen, Fort Worth, Dallas, and South San Antonio campuses have this program available. Find out more about CHCP and the healthcare certificate programs we offer by visiting our website today!