A pharmacy technician assists a pharmacist in several day-to-day pharmacy related tasks. Between triaging phone calls, handling controlled substances, preparing IV and chemotherapy medications, completing medication histories on patients, and more; the roles and responsibilities of the pharmacy technician continue to grow. But aside from taking a course, becoming certified, and showing up to work each day; how can you become an excellent pharmacy technician? KLR Pharmacy Technician Training School spoke with four different pharmacists all working in different roles. We asked them what they thought were the most important traits for a pharmacy technician to display and why.
#1: TEAM PLAYER
Pharmacy technicians wear several different hats each day. Though a pharmacy technician is generally “assigned” to one specific role during a shift, there are so many opportunities for teamwork throughout the day. Almost all technicians will juggle answering and triaging phone calls, greeting customers, and more throughout each shift, and in addition will be responsible for helping cover other shifts while their co-workers take much needed breaks.
“So much of the responsibilities within a pharmacy are shared, even if divided into various shifts. A successful pharmacy technician is willing to step in and help others when needed and can work well with their colleagues.” - Jenna Gerhardt. PharmD, BCPS
It’s important to remember that in pharmacy, there can be no shortcuts. As a pharmacy technician, it is your responsibility to put your best foot forward every day as a part of your team and in an effort to give the patient the best care possible.
“The best pharmacy technicians that I have worked with have been those who remain diligent in their work. Those technicians who put forward their best effort and care for all tasks around the pharmacy are those that make the most impact. I always enjoy working with people who are hard-working, careful, and attentive. These traits help build a very important bridge of trust between pharmacist and technician.” - Leah Warner, PharmD
#3: EXCELLENT WORK ETHIC
It goes without saying, doesn’t it? But displaying an excellent work ethic doesn’t mean you work yourself to death! It means that you work with purpose and drive and show up as your best each day.
“Pharmacy technicians are an essential piece to patients getting quality care. Between filling prescriptions or orders, delivering items, mixing IVs, and answering phones, the day of a pharmacy technician can be a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work. Much of this work is essential to making sure the right drug gets to the right patient in a timely manner. An excellent work ethic helps to motivate yourself and your teammates to continue to do their very best each day to serve and care for patients.” - Jordan Richards, PharmD
In most pharmacy settings, there are 1-2 pharmacists overseeing several different technicians in several different areas all the while, verifying medications, counseling patients, speaking with doctors and nurses, and more. A pharmacist needs pharmacy technicians who can recognize what needs to be done and complete those tasks without being asked to do so or supervised while doing so; especially when things get busy.
“The best technicians are the ones who see what needs to be done at work and take initiative when taking on tasks. When the pharmacy gets busy, it’s a huge relief to not have to delegate every little task.” - Erin Flynn, PharmD
#5: MISSION FOCUSED
Even on stressful, busy days in the pharmacy, it is important to remain focused on our patients!
“Most healthcare workers would say they joined the field because of a passion to serve others, but it’s hard to remember that on busy days. A technician that recognizes that at the end of everything we do is a real patient absolutely makes a difference.” - Jenna Gerhardt, PharmD, BCPS
Pharmacy technician responsibilities and roles are growing rapidly, and it is essential that we use the resources available to us to continue to diversify and expand our knowledge in order to best serve our patients.
“I think it is important that pharmacy technicians are always driven to learn more, expand their roles and improve on their own skills as they gain more experience. It’s an absolute must that all members of the pharmacy teamwork at their absolute best daily in order to provide the best patient care possible. As long as they are driven enough to do so, I think anyone can succeed in reaching their goals!” -Leah Warner, PharmD
#7: STRESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Working in healthcare and as a pharmacy technician can be incredibly stressful. We are asked to complete a wide variety of tasks in a short amount of time and oftentimes we do so with staffing shortages. It is imperative that a pharmacy technician be able to recognize when they are overwhelmed and tone that down in order to keep a clear mind space and safely care for their patients.
"Because there are so many things happening at one time in a pharmacy, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. In addition, patients or other healthcare professions may decide to express their frustrations to you about a situation. Knowing how to stay level-headed and empathetic in a stressful situation is extremely important for both yourself and the patients.” - Jordan Richards, PharmD
More than ever with COVID-19, pharmacy technicians need to be adaptable and flexible. Staffing shortages, masking mandates, medication backorders, new information, and an overflow of patients are just some of the factors in which these skills will aid you in being an excellent pharmacy technician.
"Healthcare is constantly changing, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Policies, procedures, responsibilities, and expectations are regularly changing to accommodate workflow and ensure the best patient care. Pharmacy technicians should be open to change, should be flexible, and should be willing to take on new responsibilities.” - Jordan Richards, PharmD
A pharmacy technician's work includes being able to quickly change direction, have an open mind regarding changes in policies and procedures, and recognizing that the demands of healthcare can change rapidly and often.
“A pharmacy technician should be willing and able to adapt to different situations within the pharmacy. This can apply to working alongside coworkers, providing customer service, and keeping up with workflow demands. The field of pharmacy is always changing and adapting when it comes to rules, regulations, standards and more. It’s important that all members of the pharmacy team are willing to “roll with the punches” to make sure the work is getting done appropriately and efficiently” - Leah Warner, PharmD
Whether you are in a retail setting speaking with the pharmacist in charge, the insurance companies, and your customers or you are in a hospital setting speaking with multiple pharmacists, ER doctors, nurses, lab, and more - communication is an important trait for all pharmacy technicians.
"Communication is important because throughout the day pharmacy technicians are interacting with pharmacists, patients, nurses, and other technicians. Clear and effective communication can improve efficiency to workflow and reduce frustration that can arise from misunderstandings. It is essential to be a successful part of the pharmacy team. -Jordan Richards, PharmD
And don’t forget communication with your fellow pharmacy technicians! It’s important to make sure that each shift communicates with the next any issues; including pending work, staffing or medication shortages, or policy changes (yes, these things can change rapidly in just a day!)
In pharmacy, technicians are not only expected to communicate with their coworkers, but they must also act as a liaison between patients, doctors, and insurance companies. The ability to communicate with all of these parties is essential."- Erin Flynn, PharmD
#10: ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Does the medication you are about to load into an automated dispensing machine expire in June or July of 2022? Do you have enough medication for the patient who just came in to get their prescriptions after a serious surgery? How many boxes of Tamiflu will our pharmacy need to get through when there is a rise in influenza cases? Did the patient you are obtaining a med history for last take her insulin this morning or yesterday morning?
"Pharmacy technicians help to dispense prescriptions of a variety of dosage forms, dose strengths, and formulations. The difference between 1 mg and 10 mg can make a big difference to the patient. Being vigilant and attentive can sometimes be the difference between helping a patient to get better verses contributing to a medication error and potentially patient harm.“ - Jordan Richards, PharmD
This is another one that goes without saying but is sometimes easier said than done!
"People don’t always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. As healthcare providers, it is important for pharmacy team members to treat all patients and coworkers with respect, kindness, and a friendly attitude. This is especially true in the retail pharmacy environment because the pharmacy technician is often the first person to greet a patient and can set the tone for the patient’s entire visit. I’ve also learned that by keeping a positive attitude even during stressful situations, others will often follow suit. A team member’s attitude can make or break the pharmacy’s day!” - Leah Warner, PharmD
Whether it be in displaying a positive attitude, showing up on time, being attentive to detail, or training new employees, valuing and displaying a leadership mindset will aid you well in your career as a pharmacy technician.
“In a career like pharmacy, staff turnover rate can be high. It is super important that the technicians have the skills necessary to train new employees and lead by setting an example.” - Erin Flynn, PharmD
A pharmacist relies on a pharmacy technician more than to just show up to work each day. They rely on us to be honest, attentive, focused, and patient driven.
“Every member of the pharmacy team needs to be accountable to others, especially the pharmacy technicians. Technicians are responsible for completing several tasks within the pharmacy and it is important that pharmacists can count on them to do so. Pharmacists rely on their technicians to help maintain a smooth workflow. It’s important that technicians are reliable and accountable for all their actions within the pharmacy. - Leah Warner, PharmD
“As a pharmacist, there is no better feeling to me than being able to rely on the technicians 100%. A lot of the time technicians know more about pharmacy logistics, ordering, computers, etc. than the pharmacist. And being a reliable coworker when it comes to handing pharmacy day-to-day is one of the most important roles of a tech.” Erin Flynn, PharmD
#14: EYE FOR PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
Could your pharmacy benefit from technician staff meetings? Do you have ideas as to how the ordering process could be improved? Should your IV room use a different cleaning product?
"One of the biggest assets a technician can bring from firsthand experience is identifying opportunities within a process for refinement and being able to take the appropriate next steps to implement them.” - Jenna Gerhardt, PharmD, BCPS
#15: TASK PRIORITIZATION
When the pharmacy is busy it is important that a pharmacy technician can observe what is going on around them and quickly determine where they are needed most. This goes hand in hand with leadership skills and understanding teamwork as well. Oftentimes, your specific position may be caught up, but your teammates may be drowning in work and need an extra hand.
"One of the most crucial skills is being able to prioritize tasks by importance. In the hectic pharmacy, it’s easy for tasks to build up. The best technicians are able to decide what is most important to get done at that time.” - Erin Flynn, PharmD
~ A huge THANK YOU to the pharmacists that took the time out their busy day to
sit down with KLR and provide their input on this blog post! ~