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Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist: What’s the Difference?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the field of pharmacy, but you don’t necessarily want to spend the time and money it would ...
Retail vs. Hospital Pharmacy Tech Jobs: What’s the Difference?
Posted Monday, Jun 29, 2020 by Altierus
Interested in training for a career as a pharmacy technician? Pharmacy techs play an important role in helping pharmacists provide medication to the public. That’s part of the reason why pharmacy technician is an in-demand healthcare career.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for pharmacy technicians could grow by as much as 7% between 2018 and 2028, adding 31,500 jobs nationally.[i] As of 2018, the two most common workplaces for pharmacy technicians were retail pharmacies and hospitals.[ii]
The main role of pharmacy technicians in both settings is to prepare prescriptions under the supervision of a pharmacist. However, there are some differences in how that role is carried out in each setting.
What Retail Pharmacy Technicians Do
In the retail setting, pharmacy technicians provide direct customer service to patients who will be using the medications they dispense (or administering them to a person they care for, such as a child or elderly relative). This means that working in the retail setting requires customer service and administrative skills, such as:
Handling in-person or telephone questions about conditions and medications
Helping patients fill out forms
Maintaining customer files
Processing insurance claims
Operating computer systems and cash registers
Consulting the pharmacist or physicians’ offices to receive approval
Pharmacy technicians who work in retail pharmacies may also be asked to help with ensuring customers understand current infection control policies, such as maintaining social distancing in lines.
Additional Duties of Retail Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy technicians will also help clean the pharmacy area, take inventory of supplies, place supply orders and stock shelves.
Of course, pharmacy technicians also fill prescriptions and compound medications. Most of the products they work with will be in the form of pills, tablets and oral liquid medications, compounded under non-sterile conditions with a pharmacist’s supervision.
The orders pharmacy technicians in retail settings fill will usually supply enough medication to last anywhere from a week to a few months.
What Working Conditions Are Like for Retail Pharmacy Technicians
Generally speaking, pharmacy technicians who work in drugstores and pharmacies can expect to work normal business hours with some weekend or night shifts. This can vary depending on the opening hours their retail location keeps and on state pharmacy regulations.
Retail pharmacy technicians spend much of their day on their feet, talking to customers, answering phones, and processing prescriptions or insurance claims. Depending on the equipment their pharmacy uses, technicians may also have to operate some laboratory equipment while filling prescriptions.
What Hospital Pharmacy Technicians Do
In the hospital setting, pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions for nurses, doctors, and other practitioners to administer to patients. Hospital pharmacy techs generally find their role puts more emphasis on their knowledge of pharmacology and medical terminology than on customer service skills. Pharmacy techs in hospitals are more likely to have to read and interpret patient charts. There’s much less interaction with patients. Instead, hospital pharmacy technicians will work more closely with doctors and nurses as well as the hospital pharmacist.
The type of prescriptions they fill differ, too. Hospital pharmacy technicians will have to compound more intravenous (IV) medicine. They’ll also work under sterile conditions more often and use a wider variety of laboratory equipment. Most of the medications they provide will be in individual doses. As a result, they may process a larger volume of orders every day compared to retail pharmacy techs.
Like their retail counterparts, hospital pharmacy technicians are also responsible for taking inventory and placing orders for supplies. They will also fill out insurance paperwork, update patient records, and file other records as needed.
What Working Conditions Are Like for Hospital Pharmacy Technicians
Hospital pharmacy technicians can expect to work more irregular hours than those in retail. This is because hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Night shifts and weekend shifts are likely to be a regular part of their working lives. Hospital pharmacy technicians who compound in sterile labs will also have to operate machinery and wear protective gear, such as goggles, masks and gloves.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
To become a pharmacy technician, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED. If you want to work in the hospital setting or stand out in the retail job market, you should also complete a post-secondary diploma program and take a national certification exam.
At Altierus Career College, we offer a 9-month diploma program that aligns with guidelines from the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP). During the program, you’ll learn the fundamentals of sterile and non-sterile prescription compounding, pharmacy legal and ethical issues, retail and hospital operations, and more.
Your tuition with us also covers professional equipment, such as scrubs and an iPad you can keep. Most importantly, we also help you prepare for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam (PTCB) and the Exam for Certification Pharmacy Technician (ExCPT).
With a diploma and certification, you’ll enter the job market ready to pursue pharmacy technician roles in retail or hospital settings—whichever interests you most. Learn more about our Pharmacy Technician Diploma today!
Our Houston campus hosted Roadtrip Nation on their screening tour of their documentary film, One Step Closer.
One Step Closer follows roadtrippers Melanie, Armand, and Becca across America as they listen to personal stories about how community college shaped the careers of working professionals. Roadtrippers engage in honest dialogue with all kinds of professionals and asked honest questions about their struggles as well as their successes.
We’re excited to continue the conversation about postsecondary education and how Altierus Career College is providing options in career technical education.
Putting Knowledge Into Practice
Altierus Career College nursing students completed their first round of clinical rotations at Genesis Healthcare. Before graduating with an Associate of Science degree in nursing, students must complete 600 hours of clinical rotations in addition to their program coursework.
During their clinical rotations, students practice what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real healthcare setting, taking vital signs, transferring patients from the bed to the wheelchair, re-positioning patients who can’t get out of bed, assisting in providing oxygenation, as well as administrating medications, inserting and maintaining IVs.
Collaborating to Close the HVAC Skills Gap in Atlanta
This year, we started some great conversations with key industry partners about closing the HVAC skills gap at all three of our local campus locations. Altierus Career College hosted local HVAC businesses to talk about how to create awareness for career technical education (CTE) and train the next generation of HVAC workers and possible apprenticeship programs so students can earn while they learn.
In addition to local HVAC servicers, we also met with Tim Elliott, CTE program specialist with Georgia’s Department of Education. Tim was excited to talk about to how partner with high schools to create awareness of CTE.
Norcross Students Place in Local HOSA Competition
This past March, 12 medical assisting students from the Norcross Altierus campus in Atlanta competed against 4,000 other students from 84 different schools in the region. Betty Wilkins, a Medical Assisting instructor for Altierus, applied for and received a Campaign for Innovation grant from the ECMC Foundation. The grant paid for HOSA membership fees, student uniforms, travel, and other expenses.
Students participated in competitions which tested their healthcare knowledge and skills. Five of those students placed in their respective events.