Pharmacy technician schools prepare you to be a pharmacy tech – a position that introduces you to an array of health care possibilities. So says Ed Mowbray, Inventory Coordinator for Shore Memorial Hospital (Somers Point, NJ). His title actually reflects a climb from pharmacy technician to lead pharmacy technician and finally to inventory coordinator, a position he’s held for nearly seven years. But, he says, it was earning his pharmacy technician certification via the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination administered by The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board about a year and a half ago that helped increase his salary cypioject.
“Being certified is important because it keeps you updated on what’s going on in the field. Most conferences have physicians, nurses, and pharmacists in attendance so everyone is on the same page,” explains the 40-year-old pharmacy tech.
Not only did certification result in a pay raise for Mowbray, but for those currently exploring pharmacy technician schools, being formally educated will help with job opportunities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2006-2007, although most pharmacy technicians jobs offer informal on-the-job training, employers favor those who have completed formal training and certification.
Formal pharmacy technician programs provided at pharmacy technician schools and certification emphasize the technician’s interest in and dedication to the work, says the BLS. Students can earn a diploma, a pharmacy technician certification, or an associate degree, depending on the program. Mowbray says he breezed through the pharmacy technician certification exam because of his years of experience, however, those starting out may want to consider pharmacy technician schools from the get-go since today’s job opportunities demand more training.
So what is a pharmacy technician anyway?
Pharmacy technicians basically assist licensed pharmacists provide medication and other health care products to patients. “We are one part of the three-part check before medication goes to the patient,” says Mowbray, explaining that pharmacy techs, pharmacists, and nurses each check that an order matches the medicine dispensed to the correct patient.
In a retail pharmacy, pharmacy technicians play a similar role that may include verifying information on a prescription, preparing the paperwork or computerized data for that prescription, and preparing the medication. Once the prescription is filled, notes the BLS, technicians price and file the prescription, which must be checked by a pharmacist before it is given to the patient.
A presciption for learning
Beyond preparing you for certification exams, pharmacy technician programs get you ready for the health care field. And once you’ve secured a job, says Mowbray, you’ll get an insider’s view of various medical professions — perfect if you’re still unsure of which health care field you want to explore. “Some people will work as a pharmacy technician before [pharmacy] school to decide if pharmacy is what they want to do,” he says. “Or they do this to pay the bills while in nursing school or X-ray tech school. It’s a good place to be because you get to see the whole overall view of the hospital and choose where you want to be.”