We frequently receive questions via email and we typically post them as comments so everyone can see them. One recent email asked two specific questions that we covered many posts ago and felt that it is worth covering again especially in light of today’s economy. (Questions posted by John, JourneyBegan1987 – yes I asked him what journey began in 1987, thanks for the questions John)
How is the outlook for pharmacist tech jobs in the near future? The outlook for pharmacy technicians in the future is pretty good. Here is why:
1) The healthcare field will at least hold steady and most likely grow in the future due to the aging baby boomers. 2) The pharmacy technician’s role is being more rapidly expanded to complete the operational pharmacy tasks to allow for more clinical oriented tasks by the high-cost pharmacist. At my hospital we add automation in the pharmacy to allow for more technicians and less pharmacists. In my state , we are also approaching the Board of Pharmacy to entertain the idea of tech-check-tech (which is something we did in the military 18 years ago). 3) Many pharmacy technicians use the job as a stepping stone to become a pharmacist or other higher degree career.
How much can one expect to make at their salary cap (I know it depends where you are but let’s say it’s in a hospital)? It really does depend on you and where you work. In retail, you are probably talking about $20/hour ($42K/year). In hospital, closer to $23/hour ($48K/year). As I mentioned before, we have technicians who get into database management and supply chain (purchasing) that do even better. To get to the max of these ranges will take many years, but it is attainable for career minded pharmacy technicians who work for larger companies.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Help Coming Soon
There are a couple of things going on with Pharmacy Technician HQ. First, I have begun the creation of a PTCB national pharmacy technician study guide that will be more than the hard copy guide you can buy and read. Working with pharmacy technicians, it is clear that a guide needs to be able to teach you in multiple ways. Not everyone learns by reading alone. Some people like to hear it or visualize the concepts. Interactive learning also seems to keep someones attention more. In addition, a simple book does not utilize the technology of iPads, laptops, or the internet. The goal with our guide will be to give you an electronic training solution that can be read as a standalone document, but will have links to audio, video, and quizzes. We should be done by the end of the year. For a few select readers of Pharmacy Technician HQ, we will offer free versions to test out. If you want to get on this list, please email me and let me know.
Next, a fellow friend, colleague, and pharmacy director has joined Pharmacy Technician HQ. I would like to introduce Dallas. He has been a director for about eight years and is as passionate about taking care of our pharmacy technicians as I am. When I helped develop the pharmacy technician career ladder for our company, he was one of the first pharmacy directors to really embrace it and advance his pharmacy technicians through the career ladder, which resulted in higher functioning technicians with more pay (and hopefully more job satisfaction). We’ll have him add a picture and bio to the about page so you can learn more from Dallas. Our first endeavor is to finish the interactive electronic PTCB guide and then we will go from there.
Something I shared with one of my staff. Sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated and focused at work. When you get comfortable, it is often easy to let up and slow down. It happens slowly over time and from a manager’s perspective, a once hard working staff member has become less productive and not engaged at work. The thing to think about . . . Your pharmacy is paying for your time. If you are a traditional 40 hour per week employee working 8 hour days, then your employer is basically “renting” your time for eight hours a day. They are often paying you an acceptable sum of dollars for those eight hours, of which you deemed acceptable by taking the job. When your day gets tough and you don’t feel like working, remember that it is not your time, but your employer’s time they rented from you. Make good on it and you will be rewarded. Misuse that time and a good employer will hold you accountable.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who has left comments on the site and who have asked very good questions. I can tell our community is growing and I am very excited about that. We endeavor to provide the best information anywhere from experts who really know the ins and outs of pharmacy practice. Based on many of the comments, we are hitting that goal. Thank you again. -Rob
Here are the top 5 sites that every pharmacy technician needs to know about
It would be self-serving to list Pharmacy Technician HQ as one of the top 5 sites you should know, but in a way I do think it is true. This is the only site that I know of that shares the inside and out of becoming a pharmacy technician and how pharmacy managers think. However, out of principle, I have not added this site to the list. I’ll let you decide where it fits.
I have selected the following sites based on value to a pharmacy technician. If you are serious about a pharmacy technician career, at least visit each site and see what it has to offer. Some are professional organizations and cost some money, I recommend joining at least one if you can afford it.
1)Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB): This has to be the number one site. In addition to being the best known national certification, they also provide great background information on the profession and the front page has pharmacy technician news to keep you up to date. There is a big push to require national certification by all states, so get yours early so you don’t have to worry later.
2) American Society of Health System Pharmacists’ (ASHPs) Pharmacy Technician Information Center: ASHP is typically for hospitals/health-system pharmacy staff. Although their main site is helpful and has some good information for pharmacy technicians, they have consolidated the information over to their new site “Pharmacy Technician Information Center.” If you practice in a hospital, this is a good organization to join. The cost is $65/year and includes a subscription to the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy.” If you don’t join, there is still good free information.
3) National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA): This pharmacy technician specific association offers a lot for you as a technician. It was created by a pharmacy technician, Mike Johnston, and the sit comes from a pharmacy technician view. The cost for member ship is $69/year, which includes online continuous education (CE). The NPTA has done a great job with social media and a broad range of publications and programs you can purchase. They are out of Texas, and I would recommend joining, especially if you are working in that part of the country.
5) American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT): I struggled to add the AAPT, but out of love I did. Currently getting its behind kicked by NPTA, but similar to the NPTA, this organization is for pharmacy technicians. Not nearly as comprehensive as NPTA, but a good links page and an okay jobs page (bestjobsearchwebsite.com is much better). It is only $50/year and only $25/year if you are still in tech school. I don’t know if I would join this one, but check it out and see what they have to offer.
I seriously almost had to go back on my initial statement that I wasn’t going to add our site. Many of the sites out there are just crap with no good information, just people trying to sell you on junk. If you are out there and own a site, step up to the plate and bring some value.
So there it is, the top 5 sites you should at least check out. Until next time. -Aloha! -Rob
July was a crazy busy month. I finally got on board with the new microphone and pen pad to start some new pharmacy calculations training. For those of you that are new to this site, I am a pharmacy manager at a 400 bed hospital, well I am not a pharmacy manager anymore. As of the end of this week, I will become a regional pharmacy director for my health system.
What does this mean for Pharmacy Technician HQ? Not too much, I have always had a busy load at work and already give more time than is required (the evidence is in the fact that I was promoted). My goal is to have work life balance and this site is one of my hobbies that I enjoy building. Some have asked how I find time to do both and spend time with my family. I have a wonderful wife and 3 kids, and I spend all the time I can with them from the time I get home until later in the evening. Some nights I choose to work on Pharmacy Technician HQ. One way I have found time is to stop watching so much TV (I wasted so much time in the past watching 3-4 different shows). I now only choose one show to watch (and sports, I love football and basketball).
Why do I tell you this . . . Because I want you to know that even if you are super busy now, there is a good chance you are spending some of your time on activities that you could drop and take that time to do something to improve your life. If you are already working full-time and considering pharmacy technician as a career change, then find the time and do it. If you are already have a job, then consider taking one of your passions and developing a website that can help people. I have started a page on how to do this at pharmacytechnicianhq.com/resourceslinks/website/. I will beef it up more as we go, but a couple of emails asking how I got this site started prompted me to put that page together.
Some people wonder if it is worth my time to work on this site, yes and no. I really do not make a lot from this site. In fact, my net right now is somewhere near 1-2 hours of pharmacist pay per month. In other words, instead of spending about 20 hours a month working on this site, I could go work for 1-2 hours in a pharmacy and make just as much. I do not do it for the money, although it is pretty cool to make some money for doing something you would do for free, and it is an awesome feeling to know that I am building something. With time I hope to create a killer e-book with video and audio links for PTCB certification. After that, I would like to create a top notch online pharmacy technician course, and get it ASHP accredited. I hope to hire some awesome pharmacy technicians to help run the site at that point. So you see, with the couple of hours I could be wasting in front of the TV, I am building something for my future AND doing my best to add value to all those who come and visit the site.
The take away message here is GOYA! (Get Off Your Asset, trying to keep it PG), and start taking advantage of the time you do have. Unless you are totally happy with where you are today, then GOYA and do something about it. Start toward your pharmacy technician career so you can get a stable job for you and your family (if you have one), then think about starting your own website so you too can be building something for your future.
I had been looking for an easy website to test the job market for jobs and didn’t find exactly what I wanted. I partnered with another company, and using their already built infrastructure created a free no sign up option that allows you to quickly test the job market in your area. Not just for pharmacy technician jobs, but for all jobs.
So, whether you are determining if your city has pharmacy technician jobs available to see if you want to become a pharmacy technician, or you are done and are looking for a job, this is a pretty cool site. You simply put in your job title (eg, pharmacy technician) and zip code or city, and the site will list all the jobs for your areas it can find. You can also sign up for emails when jobs in your job search area show up.
Hi All, it has been busy. We are getting into the summer and I am starting to get a lot of personal questions about different pharmacy technician topics. I do my best to get to all the questions. I need to take some of them and create posts on them so everyone can benefit, but many are very specific to a person’s situation. I have ordered my new microphone, so future videos and podcasts will have better sound. I am excited about creating the pharmacy technician math tutorials with the pen pad and new microphone, it should be pretty good quality (you’ll have to let me know).
Next up: the Allegation training video should be next, top 100 drugs podcasts (Daniel sent me an email requesting this get moved up on my to do list – will do Daniel), looking into turning my last technician CE into a CE for the site (it might be cost prohibitive, but we’ll see), and I am working on an interactive (links to video and audio) e-book PTCB study guide (this will be for purchase, but I will throw it out to some of this site’s subscribers for a free review).
For my actual work, life as a hospital pharmacy manager has been crazy busy. I do not have a pharmacy director at the moment, so I have a lot more responsibility. Some of my staff know I have this site for pharmacy technicians, and they wonder how I do both. I don’t know if I have said it before, but I enjoy developing pharmacy technicians and teaching. I currently provide some education for pharmacy technicians, just finished a technician CE on pharmacology for our state pharmacy association, and teach pharmacy students a class on pharmacy management. To me, I am doing my part to grow our profession. Without improving the knowledge base of our pharmacy technicians, we cannot expand the role of pharmacy.
Okay, I didn’t want to go too long. As usual, if you have any comments or questions, please send them on. I do my best to answer any questions within 24 hours, but it sometimes takes longer.
My favorite nerdy pharmacy quote: “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the precipitate.”
I frequently answer pharmacy technician related questions on various question and answer sites. The one thing that frequently comes up is “should I do it,” typically regarding pharmacy technician training or pharmacy technician certification. Well, the answer is yes. Whatever it is, do your research (thorough, but quick) and make a decision. There is something that I have run across during my training and experience, and it is “Analysis Paralysis.” We are afraid of making the wrong decision, so we make no decision. Can I just say that no decision is often the wrong decision.
I should clarify, making a decision doesn’t necessarily mean taking the first pharmacy technician school you come across and forking over your hard earned (or not even earned yet) money. If your state requires formal training or you have decided to go after formal training to set your self up for success, then take a look at as many options as you can around you. From this website, you can check out your state’s requirements and some of the schools in your state, hopefully you have already done this, if not then go there now. In addition to the schools I have listed, also check out your local community colleges. Take action by calling and visiting the schools. Talk to current students. Call a pharmacy and ask which program has the best trained techs. Do your research and then yes, make a decision and go for it.
This goes for national certification as well. Whether you are completing a formal training program or not, get a study guide and actually read it. From experience, the test is hard, but not too bad if you read the study guide. For a list of good study guides, you can see my recommendations on the certification page. Pick up one of the guides I recommend or pay a little more for the one at PTCB.org. In this case, I recommend all techs obtain national certification. So, get a book (unless you are in a formal training program and they have focused on passing the exam as part of your curriculum) and read it, study it, own the information. I strongly consider paying for the practice exam at PTCB so you can see first hand how the questions are (plus, they are very close to the actual questions you’ll get).
Okay, I hope you get the message . . . no analysis paralysis. Make a decision and go for it!
Summary: In this podcast, our main topic was preparing for and what to do in a pharmacy technician interview. Here are points of consideration covered:
– Have a well prepared resume, and bring copies to the interview. You are more likely to obtain an interview if you have experience working or training in a similar type of pharmacy site (eg, hospital).
– Dress: Wear business dress. Guys – where a suit if you can, if not at least a collard shirt and tie (no jeans). Ladies – business slacks with a blouse top. Tone down any extreme looks (eg, remove extraneous piercings).
– Do some background research on the companies website to learn more about them.
-When asked a specific question, answer the question with a specific example. Nothing is more frustrating then broad generalizations for answers.
-Don’t beg at the end or seem too desperate. End with a thank you for your time and I hope to work with you someday, hopefully soon.
In this article I will explain the steps you need to take to get an externship (or sometimes referred to as an internship). Your state may be different, but I will try to share general principles that will work in any state.
While you are in a program, online or a campus based program, think about where you might want to work. I always recommend hospital first ( I am a hospital pharmacy manager after all). Your training program may already assist you in obtaining an externship (you are lucky, and probably paid a little more for the effort). Even if your program didn’t, you should set one up yourself. It is totally worth it for many reasons. 1) great experience, 2) gets your foot in the door at a pharmacy, 3) great way to show case your abilities so that you can land a job or so that they will recommend you to another pharmacy for a job.
How to set one up if your school doesn’t do it or you are not in a school. Find out who to talk to. Every hospital pharmacy or most other pharmacies has a person who supervises students. Call the pharmacy up and ask the person who answers the phone who the person is that oversees pharmacy technician student externships (some people might call it an internship or something else, so just explain that you are in the process of becoming a technician and want to obtain some experience – basically volunteering in a pharmacy). Pick the largest hospital in your area to start off, because your chances will be better. Once you have a name and a phone number, give the person a call or ask if you can stop by and discuss it with them and that it will only be 5 or 10 minutes tops (everyone is busy, so letting them know you do not want an hour of the time they do not have is critical for them to accept your appointment).
If you go in person, make sure you are dressed professionally. The rule of thumb is to dress one level up from working attire. I recommend going in a collard shirt and consider a tie for men, a semi business or business outfit for women. Let the person know you would like to extern at their facility and are willing to do whatever they needed them to do during the training. Let them know your goal is to learn as much as you can and obtain as much experience as you can. Ask them if they have a set amount of time they like their externs to train, if they do not, then offer 80 hours or more. You want to make sure you are there long enough to learn the basics and then start performing them. You also want to get to know the staff and leadership, you want them to know you and see you working hard.
You see, this isn’t just about training, it is a trial period that is noncommittal. I hire most of my technicians from the externs that have come through my pharmacy. I get to see them work for many hours and I know up front who will work hard and who will not. I know who will text friends all day, come in late, take long lunches, and I know who will be professional and put in an honest day’s effort. I also know who will get along with my staff and who might cause problems. We do not need high maintenance staff.
I hope you paid attention to the last paragraph, that is the meat of this article. You are on trial and it is sad because most do not even realize it. Since they aren’t getting paid, they are just there to say they did it and get it on their resume, only if they knew. Do not let this be you. In fact, if this might be you, then change. In today’s work environment, we can’t afford to have non contributors to our staff. We need people who come to work on time, ready to work, and do not bring drama. We need people who focus on their job (because any distraction will increase the risk of a medication error and harm a patient), so do not text or surf the internet at work. If you can do these things (or not do these things), you will be a valuable employee and you will be there first thought when they need to hire a technician. I still have techs I have helped train that I would love to have come work for me.
In summary, externships are a great way to increase your experience and to audition for a job. So take full advantage of this time.