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Quarterly Update – February

Quarterly Pharmacy Technician HQ Update

I have been doing a lot of things this past month. For Pharmacy Technician HQ, I have added podcast #4 and started the pharmacy math series. After completing the “percents” post, I realized that doing math on a static sheet is difficult. I have looked into screen capture tablet equipment and software and think I have found my answer. So, look forward to more math posts in the future in a video format with voice over. I think it will be pretty cool (hey, it is all relative). I will show you the ever popular allegation, simple math concepts for totaling prescriptions, and converting mMol, mEq, mOsm, and mg. I know the PTCB and ExCPT exams like to throw out a lot of questions about how much do you need to fill this prescription. So I will work on getting you lots of practice with this. As you can tell, I am now in the phase of helping people who are training to be pharmacy technicians. I will update the how to become a pharmacy technician stuff as needed and maybe have an occasional post, but now it is time to help people learn. If you have any concepts you would like to see covered, please let me know.


Online vs Campus Schools (Pharmacy Technician)

*Show Links:*
Pharmacy Tech Schools by State & Requirements by State page
Career Step – Online training program
Penn Foster – Online training program

*Show Notes:*
Summary: In this podcast, our main topic was online versus campus based pharmacy technician schools. Here are points of consideration covered:
-Can you: Some states do not allow for online programs, and you must complete a campus based program. (many states require neither)
-Cost: Online programs are significantly less cost than campus based programs. They do not have to pay for a building and teachers (their overhead cost is less).
-Live feedback: Online programs lose that ability to raise your hand and have immediate feedback when you do not understand something. You can’t alter the lecture to help you when you do not understand a concept.
-Self motivation: If you are not self-motivated, you can’t do an online program.
-How the online programs work:Schools like Career Step have a true online training program that is an interactive learning session. Schools like Penn Foster (which is the lowest cost) is more of a read this material and take this test online when you are done.


One of the most fundamental math concepts that every pharmacy technician needs to know is the definition of a percent. I know most of us have a general idea of percents. When we achieve a 95% on an exam of 100 questions, then we correctly answered 95 out of 100 questions. If we receive a 90% on an exam of 50 questions, then we correctly answered 45 out of 50 questions. To get the answer, we divide 45 by 50 and we get 0.9 or 90%. This, so far, is probably something most of us already understand. What about 2.5% hydrocortisone cream or 0.9% sodium chloride solution? What do these percents of medication mean?

In the case of 2.5% hydrocortisone cream, it is a solid (versus being in a solution). This means that the percent is weight in weight. We now know that the cream is 2.5 parts hydrocortisone in 97.5 parts of other stuff (inert ingredients also known as excipients). This is typically expressed in grams or (g). Therefore, if you had 100 grams of 2.5% hydrocortisone cream, then you have 2.5 grams of hydrocortisone and 97.5 grams of a cream base and other excipients. If you had 30 grams of hydrocortisone cream, you would multiply 30 grams by 0.025 (or 2.5%) to obtain 0.75 grams of hydrocortisone and 29.25 grams of cream base and other excipients.

In the case of the 0.9% sodium chloride solution, it is a liquid. This means that the percent is weight in volume. Always consider a percent that is in a solution as grams per 100 milliliters (mL). Our 0.9% sodium chloride is 0.9 grams per 100 mL. People seem to always forget the 100 mL part. There are many calculations where you need to know the concentration in milligram (mg) per mL or gram per liters (L). You could do the simple algebra equation below:

Converting percent to mg/mL

0.9 g/100 mL = x mg/mL

(we can add 1000 mg/1 g because they equal each other)

x mg/mL = 0.9 g/100 mL X 1000 mg/g = 9 mg/mL

Converting percent to g/L

0.9 g/100 mL = x g/L

(we can add 1000 mL/1 L because they equal each other)

x g/L = 0.9 g/100 mL X 1000 mL/L = 9 g/L

Now that you know the actual calculations, you can use a shortcut. Whenever you need to convert a percent to g/L or mg/mL, simply move the decimal to the right by one place. In the case of 0.9%, this means it become 9. You probably noticed above that both answers are 9. This is a fundamental mathematical skill that all pharmacy staff (pharmacists and pharmacy technicians) needs to know. Commit it to memory, and it will serve you well throughout your career.


This article is for all pharmacy technicians, and pharmacists for that matter, as well as everyone who is considering becoming a pharmacy technician. My recent experiences has led to some serious thought about whether we, the profession of pharmacy, are taking our jobs seriously. A pharmacy is not fast food, even though we joke about “McPharmacy” and our recent increase in drive-up windows. We deal with medications that can cause death or serious harm if given incorrectly, or if the wrong medication is given. There are too many reports in the news about medication errors and I have to think . . . are we taking our jobs seriously, are we meeting the expectations of our patients?

As a pharmacy manager, I have had the pleasure of working with great pharmacy technicians. They show up ready for work, on time, and take their job seriously. They not only get along with their coworkers, they genuinely want to help them and see them succeed. To work with these technicians makes my job worth it. The largest factor that makes these techs successful is that they get it. They know that they are taking care of patients, and therefore any error or delay in service can adversely affect the care of our patients.

Of course, there is always the flip side. I also have the task of working with pharmacy techs that don’t get it. It is my job to help them get to the place that the previous paragraph spoke of. How do I do this? I first explain why our job is important and give clear expectations for what is expected of them. I let them know that continuing down the path they are on and not changing will ultimately result in their termination. You want examples, I know, we all do. Here is a short non-inclusive list: showing up for work late, listening to their iPod while working, socializing instead of focusing on the job at hand, talking on their cell phone or instant messaging constantly at work, taking excessive breaks with no coverage for their work areas during the break, and repeating the same mistake over and over.

The bottom line: Think about what you would expect as a patient or if a family member of yours was sick, how would you want the person attending to their medication needs to act? More importantly, if you are doing anything that distracts you form the job at hand, then stop. We are healthcare professionals, and it is about time we all start acting like it!


Job Descriptions (Pharmacy Technician)

Summary: In this podcast, I discuss various pharmacy settings where pharmacy technicians work. These include retail, hospital, long-term care, home-care, nuclear, and health insurance. For each practice setting, the individual tasks that a pharmacy technician can perform are provided.

*Show Notes:*
What a Pharmacy Technician Does page (has a bullet list of tasks performed by technicians)

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A Pharmacy Manager’s Take on Pharmacy Technician Certification

There is more specific information about obtaining national certification at the national certification page, but I want to talk about why you should do it in a little more detail.

If you are in a state that requires national certification, then you have to do it. If you are not, then you have a choice. I recommend you choose to get it. It will set you apart from those that do not, and you never know if you will move to a different state that does require it. As a pharmacy manager, it lets me know that you have met a minimum level of knowledge because you passed an exam that tests you to this base level of knowledge.

What else? It just sounds good! Nationally certified!!! I am right, aren’t I? I mean, that sounds better than, I am a registered technician in South Dakota (nothing against folks in South Dakota). You get to use CPhT after your name as a designation that you are certified. This adds a level of legitimacy. My opinion, but hey, I am just a guy who hires a lot of technicians for my job, what do I know. For links to the PTCB and ExCPT websites, and my recommended study guides, go to the Certification Page.

In the end, just do it. It isn’t massively expensive or time consuming.



What You Need to Know About National Certification

Do you need to have national certification to become a pharmacy technician? It depends! Almost every state has a different requirement for becoming a pharmacy technician, you really need to check your state requirements to find our. Google your state’s name and board of pharmacy (eg, Texas Board of Pharmacy). You could also find a website that has already summarized this information for you (yes, like we have here). This will get you to your state’s website; from there you need to look for pharmacy technician requirements. Some states do require national certification, some have it as one option for becoming licensed/registered, others increase the pharmacist to technician ration when techs are nationally certified, and others do not recognize it. Yes, it is all over the place.

Where do you get a national certification from? There are two main organizations that nationally certify pharmacy technicians. The first is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). They have been around since 1995. I was in the Navy at the time and remember when it came out. I was in the group of technicians that first became nationally certified. A few years ago, a second national certification became available. The Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT), their exam is called the exam for the certification of pharmacy technicians (ExCPT). Both have similar cost (within $10 of each other). They use different testing centers in many states, so you will want to see when and where you can test. In the end, this may be the biggest factor for which exam you take. In addition, some states only recognize the PTCB, so once again, check your state requirements.

How do you prepare for the exam? Both PTCB and ICPT offer practice exams and training material (for a cost). You can also check Amazon for some study guides. If you completed formal training, you are probably in good shape to take the exam. If you haven’t, definitely get a study guide and hit it hard. If you come up with anything you don’t understand, send me an email and I will try and help you. For links to the PTCB and ExCPT websites, and my recommended study guides, go to the Certification Page.

My Recommendation Get nationally certified no matter if your state requires it or not. If you live in a state that does not require it, then you will more competitive when you are interviewing for a job.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave me a comment if you have further questions. As always, I would love to get some feedback on this article or requests for future content.

(This article was originally published at Infobarrel.com by Rob Hoopi)
(Picture provided by renjith krishnan)


Pharmacy Technician Update and Insight

We are in between Christmas and the New Year. I am on my last day of 5 days off, and know I have a lot to do when I get back to work tomorrow. So one post before the new year starts.

I have been answering questions about pharmacy technicians and medicine in Yahoo Answers, and see a common theme. People have no idea about how to become a pharmacy technician. Most people think they have to do a training program and a lot of people think that there is some specific route to take (like get a degree or tech certificate). It is so critical that you find out your exact state’s requirements, since every state is different. I have blogged and written articles about this many times to get the word out. I have seen or at least read (this new online world is a trip some times, you meet people . . sort of) about people who paid over $15k for a training program that their state does not require. I mention in my articles that some state do not require anything or no formal training, and unless you have a solid lead on a job (you know someone who is going to help you out), I recommend a lower cost online program. The best one (Career Step) is about $1200 (a lot less than $15,000) and there are other online/correspondence programs that cost even less (you get less, but enough to feel like you know something the day you walk into a pharmacy). Unless you need a formal program (like some states require), I would strongly consider your other options.

As a pharmacy manager, one thing that I think everyone should have is national certification. This does not cost a lot ($120 for the exam and maybe $40 for a study guide if you do not complete a training program), but will show everyone that you have been tested and meet some minimum standard.

Next year, I plan on creating content on pharmacology and pharmacy calculations. In addition, I hope to begin my endeavor to create an awesome e-book that will help you study for the national certification. My hope is to do this for a cost a lot lower than anything out right now. In addition to the e-book, also make it an audio book (I love to consume books via audio book while I drive to and from work).

Until next year, Aloha -Rob

(Picture provided by Simon Howden)


Training and Certification (Pharmacy Technician)

Summary: In this podcast, I introduce the requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician. One of the key first steps is to determine what your state requires to become a pharmacy technician. This is because each state decides what their pharmacy technician requirements are. The rest of the podcast discusses the 2 major national certification organizations (PTCB and ExCPT) as well as formal training programs (online and campus based).

*Show Notes:
Tech Requirements and Schools By State page
PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board)
ExCPT (Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians)
Career Step (click link to request free information from this online training program)


Here is my first podcast: Become a Pharmacy Technician – Is it Right For You.

Summary: In this podcast, I cover three major questions about becoming a pharmacy technician. These include: Are there jobs available? What is the pay? and What makes pharmacy technician a good option? The answer to the last question (and to some extent the first question) lies within the fact that you can use pharmacy technician as a career or a stepping stone. To learn more, you will need to listen to the podcast.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (info on pharmacy technician pay and job outlook)
Schools By State page (for information on your state to see your requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician)

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