Nurses make GREAT pharmacy technicians!

Nurses and a Pharmacy Technician Career

I have worked for nearly 20 years in retail pharmacy as a pharmacist. It’s a great job, but the high pressure working environment, frequent chaos, management pressure, and often irrational requests from patients are simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Well trained pharmacy technicians can make your day a lot easier, and provide substantial comfort and care to concerned customers. In my experience, nurses have an excellent background to transition into a pharmacy technician career. I have had the privilege of working with several nurses in this capacity, and it has been a real honor. Therefore I wanted to write a brief hub on the particular suitableness of the pharmacy technician career for those looking for an alternative to their nursing jobs (or just extra income). No, sadly, a pharmacy technician does not make nearly the same money as a nurse typically does, but if you are looking for something a bit less physically demanding…this could be perfect.

Also helpful may be these resources:

NPTA – National Pharmacy Technician Association

PTCB – Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
Nurses Understand Illness

This may sound silly, but many people who have never been sick (often teenagers and young adults and otherwise healthy folks) have very little compassion and consideration for patients that are legitimately sick. Others are actually uncomfortable around illness. But nurses understand illness. Training and nursing experience provide an excellent background for caring for patients who show up in the pharmacy often feeling miserable. I have had customers break down and cry and have watched as some technician just stood there speechless not knowing what to do or say. Its not that they didn’t care…they just didn’t know what to do. Nurses know. They excel in this atmosphere.
Nurses Know Drugs

Lets face it, pharmacy is virtually all about the drugs. Yes, we care for patients, but it is a very specific and specialized care that focuses on their medication management. And nurses understand medication. They have studied the drugs, written the drugs, handled the drugs, talked about the drugs, seen the drugs, and dispensed the drugs. Prescription medications are like a whole different language: lisinopril, dipyridamole, Avapro, hydrochlorothiazide, etc. Nurses speak this language already. Sure, anyone can learn it (hey, I did…so anything is possible!), but nurses definitely have an advantage.
Nurses Know Common Sense Care

Many of the questions and concerns raised in a retail pharmacy are about common first aid and routine care for coughs, colds, and other such ailments. Nurses make an awesome resource for retail pharmacies and their customers. I have personally witnessed some amazing care and sound advice being dispensed by nurses whom I have worked with in the pharmacy. Once familiarized with the layout and products of the OTC area, a nurse is like a fish in water, and skillfully guides customers to competent cures.
Nurses Can Handle Pressure

Most of the day in a retail pharmacy, however, is not spent casually discussing the color and consistency of our constipated customers most recent bowel movement. Thankfully! Most of the day is CRAZY busy, doing 18 things at once, while ensuring that the prescriptions are accurately filled and records are correctly documented. A pharmacy technician must:

Accurately interpret prescription orders
Answer phone calls from customers and physician offices and doctors
Input prescription data correctly, along with personal data and insurance information
Locate and correctly count out prescription orders
Mix reconstitutable suspensions when necessary
Retrieve prescription orders and ensure the right patient is getting the right prescription
Yep…and even run the cash register.

It gets crazy! But nurses know this, and can generally handle such situations with great skill and, most importantly, with accuracy and carefulness. Nurses, most at least, have probably been yelled at once or twice, and can keep from losing their cool. Customers are not always the friendliest creatures on earth.
A Career in Nursing: Is it right for me?, 1e
A Career in Nursing: Is it right for me?, 1e
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Nurses Appreciate Confidentiality Concerns

Yep, nothing will ruin a day like an untrained technician whole bluntly yells across 3 aisles “Mr. Smith…your Viagra prescription is out of refills…can you wait a couple days??” Ugghhh. The pharmacist then prepares to put out the fire. Maybe that is a bit of exaggeration, but really, nurses understand that a person’s medical profile is private and should not be the topic of break room chatter or public pronouncement.
Nurses Know Doctors

Nurses are not needlessly intimidated by phone calls from local physicians. Again..this is their milieu. They work well with other healthcare professionals and handle themselves in a professional manner. For these and may other reasons, nurses make great pharmacy technicians.

Nothing I have written is intended to discourage non-nurses from pursuing a pharmacy technician career. I have worked with awesome technicians from many different non-medical backgrounds. But I have especially impressed with how well the nurses I have worked with have done in this environment, and they seem to have enjoyed it too! So, if you are a nurse and thinking about a career change or just need a break from your current career…think about working as a pharmacy technician…WE WANT YOU!