7 Skills to Becoming a Successful Pharmacy Technician!Sep 26th, 2022
Responsibilities and Pharmacy Technician Skills
Pharmacy technicians are healthcare professionals who work with pharmacists in either community (retail) or hospital or industrial pharmacy – helping patients with their needs and offering advice when it’s needed. Knowing what pharmacy technician skills to develop is essential for your long-term growth.
Of course, not everyone has the skills needed to become a competent and professional pharmacy technician. It often takes time to develop these skills. Pharmacy technicians must develop a diverse range of skills to meet their core responsibilities.
These core responsibilities include:
- Communicating between the patient and the pharmacist, ensuring that the patient’s needs are communicated accurately.
- Ensuring that the patient receives the medicine stated on the prescription.
- Dispensing medicines safely and accurately and in accordance with standard protocols.
- Conduct responsibilities in accordance with local and federal pharmacy legislation.
- Accurately identify medication errors.
- Maintain patient records, both in paper and electronic formats.
- Identify adverse effects and relaying these clinical details to the pharmacist.
- Review inventory within the pharmacy setting.
- Facilitate communication between the patient and insurance company, prescriber, or other relevant bodies.
Skills that pharmacy technicians have include attention-to-detail, communication skills, and people skills. Below, we go through each of these skills in turn, as well as the reasons you need to develop them.
1 – Effective Communication
Pharmacy technicians are consummate communicators; a fundamental part of their professional duty.
In the pharmacy setting, there are three core branches of communication:
- Accurately communicating clinical details to the pharmacist.
- Effectively communicating medicine details to the patient.
- Empathetic tone for patients in distress.
As a pharmacy technician, you will come across all three forms of communication daily. You must communicate in a professional manner that addresses the specific concern at hand – managing both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.
Communication is also important for conflict resolution.
Let’s not forget that conflict can emerge between the patient and their healthcare provider, or between the patient and their insurance provider. Pharmacy technicians are often the broker between both, and must adopt a constructive and mature tone that brings both sides together and reduces the temperature of the situation.
2 – Attention-to-Detail
Attention-to-detail is one of the foremost skills of the pharmacy technician. Given the widespread nature and risk of medication error, attention-to-detail is a vital skill that every technician must develop.
Medication errors can prove very damaging. Take expired tetracyclines, for example, can cause Fanconi syndrome. By not double-checking whether the medication is correct, the patient may end up with a medicine that looks and/or sounds alike, and takes it – believing it is the right medicine for them. Doses must be checked, too. Pharmacy is all about checks – and that requires effective attention-to-detail skills. Technicians need to be alert, even through stressful and busy times.
Attention-to-detail is also important for stock / inventory management, processing insurance claims, and working with computer software.
3 – Teamwork Skills
Pharmacy technicians are important members of a team. And teamwork skills form an important part of the overall skillset of the pharmacy technician.
In healthcare, teamwork matters. No one healthcare professional goes it alone. Each professional is dependent on at least one other. As such, technicians need to play their role within the team.
This means working with colleagues to meet deadlines; to take directions and to act upon them without delay or hesitation or complaint; and to anticipate the work needs of your colleagues and taking the initiative and being proactive. It often means doing things you may not want to do, but must do.
To work effectively in teams, technicians must surrender their personal preferences. Instead, the team pools their skillset and aims toward a common goal.
4 – Professional Development
As with any profession, pharmacy technicians must continuously develop and test their skillset.
Let’s face it, the role of the pharmacy technician continues to expand – and rapidly. Both the roles and responsibilities continue to grow, but so too does the federal legislation. Technicians must keep on top of how the industry and profession is developing.
Pharmacy technicians must be adept at change; to adapt to these evolving trends and legal requirements. Many of these laws relate to entering and processing medicines, whereas other laws focus exclusively on insurance companies. It’s up to the technician to ensure that they engage in continuous professional development throughout their career – maximizing their performance in the pharmacy.
5 – Ability to Handle Stress
Pharmacies can be busy and often stressful environments.
Knowing how to manage stress is an essential pharmacy technician skill. Pharmacy technicians are often saddled with an enormously varied workload, and are simultaneously expected to deal with members of the public, many of whom can contribute to this stress.
Technicians must be capable of managing this workload – responsibly, and in a clearheaded and professional manner. At the same time, technicians must ensure that standards do not slip. No medication errors can be made, nor any miscommunication.
In many respects, this is one of the more difficult technician skills to develop. But with time and with enough practice, it will.
6 – Tech Savvy
Pharmacy has evolved over the past number of decades. More than ever, there is a technological solution to a problem – whether that be to check patient records and medication, or to conduct stock and inventory management.
As this technology adapts, so too must the pharmacy technician. Technicians must understand how to safely and responsibly deal with technology.
Remember: technology does not remove the risk of medication error, it merely mitigates against the risk. In the end, it’s people who operate technology and therefore even with the best technology, medication errors can creep through.
7 – Diligent Behavior
Extemporaneous compounding is one of the daily tasks of every pharmacy technician.
This refers to the preparation of both sterile and non-sterile products, such as the reconstitution of granular products or preparing IV mixtures. Accuracy is key, but so too is your physical ability to do so.
When dealing with solutions, some of which may be hazardous, it’s important for technicians to act responsibly – both in terms of themselves but also in terms with the wider environment and colleagues who may be close to your orbit.
Pharmacies often contain hazardous materials and technicians should always move around the pharmacy with care and diligence.
Take Home Message
As you prepare for the PTCB exam, always consider the professional approach you intend to foster and grow once you become a qualified member of this healthcare profession. It’s not enough to know the details, you need to act accordingly – building a professional ethos from Day 1, learning from your mistakes and acting accordingly.
The essential skills of every pharmacy technician, therefore, include:
- Effective communication skills
- Teamwork skills
- Continuous professional development
- Stress management
- Technologically savvy
- Diligence in the workplace
Developing these skills will not happen overnight. It takes time, and practice – and much learning.
But by taking the time to learn what you need to develop, you are already half-way there. All that’s required now is some effort, time, and a self-awareness of how you currently perform in the workplace, and what you can do to incrementally improve this performance in the months and years ahead.
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