How to get a Pharmacy Technician Externship
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.