Tips for a New Pharmacy Technician Working In a Retail Pharmacy
Congratulations on your new job! I know exactly how you are feeling. I remember my first day working in the pharmacy as if it was yesterday. I was excited, anxious, and scared. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know anything about a pharmacy. The only thing that I knew was that people would go to a pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions. I was considered a Pharmacy Service Associate when I first started working in the pharmacy. I was responsible for running the register in the front of the pharmacy and the drive-thru. At first it didn't sound like a hard task. But, in reality it was a lot more than I expected. I was introduced on my first day to a computer system that I never heard of. I was told that I had to learn this system in order for me to do my job well. The pharmacy computer system is where I would search for the status on prescriptions. I would also use this computer system to help me make sure that I was giving the correct prescriptions to the right customer at pick up and drive-thru. I would also have to help answer the phone even though I didn't know much at the time.
Our huge delivery day was on Thursdays. I remember the first time that I had to help technicians stock the shelves. I was pulling these medication bottles out of the totes in confusion walking around the pharmacy trying to figure out where these bottles and medications are supposed to go. That is when I started to see the importance of knowing the Top 200 Drugs also known as your fast-movers in some pharmacies. That is when I started to recognize the importance of getting familiar with how medications are organized/located in my store. Such as: inhalers, oral contraceptives, topical medications, oral suspensions and refrigerated items. Last but not least, learning which medications actually belong in the refrigerator. All along while I was doing all of these tasks I was thinking in my head. WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?!?
I created a list below to help you on your new journey. I hope that this will prevent you from feeling like I did when I first started working as a new Pharmacy Technician.
1. Ask questions.
The more you ask questions, the more you will learn. If you don't understand something, speak up! The pharmacy can be very busy at times. But, if you never speak up and let someone know that you do not understand you will never learn.
2. Learn the pharmacy's computer system and learn it well.
The better I became at learning the system, the more efficient I became in my workflow. Be mindful, every pharmacy will not have the SAME computer system. Be prepared to learn a new system if you decide to switch to a different company.
3. Learn the Top 200 drugs and Controlled medications.
When you learn these medications, it will make your job a lot easier in a lot of ways. For example, if a patient drops off a prescription for Percocet. Percocet is considered a Schedule II medication. This will prevent you from wasting your time checking the shelves to see if it is in stock. CII medications are located in a safe near the pharmacist. Therefore, you can just ask your pharmacist about the wait time and if they have the correct strength and quantity in stock. Your pharmacist will normally count CII medications.
4. Learn Sig Codes.
I can't stress enough the importance of learning your sig codes. Believe me, sig codes will save you a lot of time during data entry!
5. NEVER tell a customer that you don't know something.
Telling a customer that you do not know something will make them lose their faith in you and in your pharmacy. Instead of telling a customer that you do not know something, simply tell them that you will work on it or look into it. Gather as much information as possible from the customer so that you can ask a fellow co-worker or pharmacist to assist you.
6. Customers will get upset with you, do not let this discourage you.
A lot of times customers are simply not feeling good, the cost of a prescription might be too expensive, their insurance requires a prior authorization or we might not have their medication in stock. A lot of times the pharmacy is a place where our customers will come to vent. Our job is to provide excellent customer service at all times. If you have done all that you can do for a customer do not be upset with yourself. Sometimes, customers will still be unhappy regardless of all the things that you have done to help them. Also, you will meet customers who will brighten your day as well. Not all customers come into the pharmacy upset but be prepared for some that do.
7. Be confident in yourself.
You are not going to know everything in your first couple of months and that is perfectly fine. It is a lot to learn. But, once you learn the basics and start to become more confident in yourself as you develop in your new role everything will fall into place. One thing that a person can never take from you is knowledge.
8. Get familiar with how your pharmacy is set up.
Be able to easily find inhalers, topical medications, eye drops, patches, oral contraceptives, and refrigerated items. With the refrigerated items, learn which medications that your pharmacy normally stocks in the refrigerator. When you start working in production and you will have to pull the medications off of the shelves and count/prepare them, it will be easier for you to do. You will not have to walk around the pharmacy several times looking for a medication. This is also helpful to know on truck day when it is time to re-stock the shelves. This will save you A LOT of time!
9. Last but not least, WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES! YOUR BACK, LEGS and FEET WILL THANK YOU!
Remember that nothing worth having comes easy!