Updated: Jun 12
You’ve taken a course, passed your national certification, and obtained your license as a pharmacy technician. Congratulations, you’re ready to begin applying to jobs! But this broaches the question - where do you want to work? Pharmacy technicians can work in many different settings, but retail pharmacy is one of the most common. Let's dig into some of the tasks and daily activities a retail pharmacy technician will encounter on the job.
Retail pharmacy technicians work in areas such as Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens, Sam's Club, Costco, etc. Retail pharmacies are pharmacies in which the patient is not staying. As you know, when you receive a prescription from your physician, you typically go to the pharmacy to have it filled and leave directly afterwards.
Most retail pharmacies are open during times that best serve their patients. Technicians generally work 8-12 hour shifts and have a rotating schedule of days and evenings. While some retail pharmacies are open 24/7, most are not so a night shift for a retail pharmacy technician isn’t common. Several retail pharmacies remain open on holidays, so you can expect to see an alternating holiday schedule as well.
Some pharmacies have a rotating schedule for technicians during the day; where a technician is stationed at the drop off (data entry) area for a couple of hours, and then moves to a different area such as the cash register, counting area, or drive through window for the same amount of time; effectively breaking up the technician’s day and exposing them to different tasks during each shift. Other pharmacies will have a technician stationed in one of these areas for a full shift and somewhere else the next shift.
One of the biggest differences between retail and hospital pharmacies are the daily public interactions. Retail pharmacies are designed to serve the needs of their customers - those coming in to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, pick up OTC medications, and/or ask the pharmacist questions. As a retail pharmacy technician, you need to be able to complete many tasks a day with careful detail and attention to each. The technician is often the first person the customer comes into contact with and for that reason it is important that you are able to remain calm, compassionate, and focused at all times. Technicians greet customers on the phone, in the store, and at the drive-through window.
Pharmacy technicians are integral in ensuring that patient wait time is reduced by asking the patient the correct questions, scanning prescriptions for accuracy and information needed, and correctly entering data into the computer system. Retail pharmacy technicians spend their days answering the telephone; processing prescription refill requests or directing patient questions to the pharmacist when needed. Another phone responsibility of the pharmacy technician is to speak directly with insurance companies (third party payers) regarding patient eligibility or prescription processing issues.
Retail pharmacy technicians assist the pharmacist with the filling of prescriptions by locating drug stock bottles off of the shelves, counting or pouring medications, and labeling medications to be dispensed to patients. Afterwards it is important that a pharmacy technician returns these stock bottles to the correct areas on the shelf and correctly stores completed prescriptions for patient pick up once the pharmacist has completed a final verification on the prescription. Some pharmacy technicians assist or specialize in inventory for the pharmacy as well. This is done by scanning the shelves for soon to expire medications or medications that are low on stock level. These medications are reordered, usually weekly; and once they arrive technicians assist by checking these orders in and then restocking the shelves; both in the pharmacy and in the store areas where OTC (over-the-counter) medications are kept.
Another important role of the retail pharmacy technician comes when the patient arrives to pick up their medications. Pharmacy technicians are again, often the first point of contact for the patient. A pharmacy technician will greet the patient, find their correct medications, and ringing them out through the computer system. At this time it is always important to check whether or not the patient has any questions about their medication and if they do; alerting the pharmacist so the patient can be counseled.
Some other tasks a pharmacy technician can expect to see in a retail setting include:
Receiving written prescriptions and entering patient and prescription information into the computer system
Answering the telephone for call-in prescriptions and referring these to the pharmacist
Completing refill requests for patient over the phone or in person
Updating the computer system with patient demographics; this includes patient name, address, telephone number, allergies, health conditions, and third-party payer information
Submitting prescription claims online to insurance companies
Reconstituting, packaging, and repackaging medications
A retail pharmacy technician's days are fast paced and never quite the same. If you enjoy a multitude of responsibilities, communicating with customers and the public, and working on a team; retail pharmacy might be the place for you!