The best way to explore this field is to get a part-time or summer job at a local retail pharmacy. Although your duties may be limited to stocking the shelves, working the cash register, or making deliveries, you will still gain valuable experience by working in this environment and interacting with trained pharmacists and technicians. By doing this, you may even be able to find a mentor who is willing to give you advice about education and the pharmacy technician career.
Another option is to volunteer at a local hospital which will provide you with an excellent opportunity to be in an environment similar to the one in which many professional technicians work. As a volunteer, you can hone your communication skills and learn about medical settings by interacting with both patients and medical staff. You may even have the opportunity to meet and talk with pharmacy technicians.
The roles of the pharmacist and pharmacy technician expanded greatly in the 1990s. The pharmacist's primary responsibility is to ensure that medications are used safely and effectively through clinical patient counseling and monitoring. To provide high-quality pharmaceutical care, pharmacists now focus on providing clinical services. As a result, pharmacy technicians' duties have evolved into a more specialized role known as pharmacy technology. Pharmacy technicians perform more of the manipulative functions associated with dispensing prescriptions. Their primary duties are drug-product preparation and distribution, but they are also concerned with the control of drug products. Technicians assemble, prepare, and deliver requested medication. Technicians are responsible for record keeping, and they record drug-related information on specified forms, frequently doing this part of the work on computers. Depending on a technician's experience, he or she may order pharmaceuticals and take inventory of controlled substances, such as Valium and Ritalin.
Technicians who work in hospitals have the most varied responsibilities of all pharmacy technicians. In a hospital, technicians fill total parenteral nutrition preparations and standard and chemotherapy IVs (intravenous solutions) for patients under doctors' orders. Other duties that a hospital pharmacy technician may be required to do include filling "stat," or immediate, orders and delivering them; preparing special emergency carts stocked with medications; and monitoring defibrillators and resuscitation equipment. In an emergency, pharmacy technicians respond with doctors and nurses, rushing the cart and other equipment to the emergency site. They also keep legal records of the events that occur during an emergency. Technicians work in the hospital's outpatient pharmacy, which is similar to a commercial drugstore, and assist the pharmacist in dispensing medication.
As their roles increase, trained technicians have become more specialized. Some specialized types of pharmacy technicians include narcotics control pharmacy technicians, operating room pharmacy technicians, emergency room pharmacy technicians, nuclear pharmacy technicians, and home health care pharmacy technicians. Specially trained pharmacy technicians are also employed as data entry technicians, lead technicians, supervisors, and technician managers.