Pharmacy technicians in the state of Tennessee are an integral part of the healthcare community, providing valuable assistance to pharmacists and the pharmacy customers they serve. Working as a pharmacy technician requires strong attention to detail and excellent organizational skills, as well as a customer service oriented personality and a strong desire to help people.
Positions exist in a variety of environments, from standalone pharmacies to corner grocery stores to major area hospitals. Since positions are generally available in most cities and towns, becoming a pharmacy technician can allow you to work in your current community or try some place new.
Part of the expanding medical sector, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the demand for pharmacy technicians to rise by approximately 9 percent between the years of 2014 and 2024. In the state of Tennessee, the average annual wage received by a pharmacy technician was $30,200 in 2015, though that may rise as demand for skilled technicians increases.
Pharmacy technicians are most commonly employed in retail pharmacies, such as those located in supercenters or standalone drug stores, or in larger medical facilities, such as regional hospitals and medical centers. The job duties assigned to a pharmacy technician cover a wide range of services depending on the environment in which you work.
In most retail settings, customer service will be a primary component, as working directly with the public is the cornerstone of the position. This can include speaking with customers in person or over the phone, collecting new or refill prescription information, and updating relevant personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.
Outside of the customer service duties, a pharmacy technician, under the guidance of a pharmacist, will participate in the measurement and packaging of certain medications, as well as assisting with inventory tracking and making sure the pharmacist is aware of any medications that are running short. You may be responsible for compounding medications by hand or using certain automated dispensing equipment when completing orders that require a high amount of precision.
You may work with insurance companies to determine a customer’s eligible prescription benefits. Assisting with the proper billing of insurance can also be included, as well as contacting the customers’ physicians, via fax or over the phone, for refill requests and authorizations.
While the state of Tennessee does not require a person to be certified in order to work as a pharmacy technician, employers may choose to require minimum standards of education and certification at their discretion.
In order to be best prepared to complete the duties of a pharmacy technician, participating in a reputable educational program can help provide you with the skills and knowledge you will need to perform at your best and prepare you to take the national certification examination many choice employers may require.
Pharmacy technician programs are often offered through community colleges or vocational schools, and can range in duration from nine months to two years. The programs will cover information regarding the operation and general maintenance of standard pharmacy equipment, as well as how to assist with the preparation and storage of medications. Additionally, you will be taught how to receive and review prescriptions for completeness and accuracy, as well as how to work with customers to gather and update pertinent information.
Many courses will offer a level of training in the use of computer systems, as these are commonly used for the recording of patient and prescription data. Some will also cover business management aspects that are specific to pharmacy operations, as well as answer any questions regarding what sort of activities can, or cannot, be completed by a pharmacy technician. An overview over any applicable laws and regulations, such as the handling of narcotics or medications containing pseudoephedrine, will also be provided.
Some larger pharmacies may offer in-training positions. This allows you to work within a pharmacy, learning the skills necessary to successfully work in the position, even if you have no other specific education or experience.
At the end of your training period, you may be eligible for a promotion into a full pharmacy technician position, or you may find that you have built the confidence you need to apply for certification.
Training opportunities such as these may or may not have definitive timelines regarding their completion. Depending on the number of hours you work, and how quickly you pick up the material, you may find yourself in training for only a few months to a few years or more. Since these programs are not part of a larger, regulated educational system, the employer has some discretion regarding the plans design.
Even though certification is not required by the state of Tennessee, it is recognized by the state for its value. Certain employers may consider it mandatory, especially in positions where the job title refers to a certified pharmacy technician. Others employers may show preference to applicants who are certified, listing it as a preferred, but not a required, qualification.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) examination, a certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), and is recognized by the state of Tennessee. Additionally, the CPhT certification is recognized by most employers looking for certified pharmacy technicians.
In order to be eligible to take the exam, certain minimum qualifications must be met. This includes being 18 years of age or older, and having received a high school diploma or its equivalent. Additionally, you will need to complete a background check to ensure there are not any convictions in your background that would prevent you from working in the field. Once those requirements have been met, you will need to register online and apply to participate in the examination.
Upon acceptance, you will be able to schedule your examination through Pearson Vue, which offers the examinations at various locations regularly throughout the year. The examination is a 90 question multiple choice test that covers the knowledge and skills that are required to be a successful pharmacy technician within an appropriate workplace.
Once you pass the examination, you will receive your CPhT certificate, which will remain valid for two years barring any negative incidents.
If you do not pass the CPhT exam on the first try, you are allowed up to another three attempts without any additional authorization, though you will need to complete the process to officially schedule each subsequent exam. There is a 60 day waiting period between each the first and second, as well as the second and third, attempts. After the third attempt, you must wait an additional six months before the fourth attempt can be scheduled.
If, after the fourth attempt, you were not successful, you must file a petition with the PTCB requesting permission prior to being allowed additional attempts. There are no specific standards that must be met to be permitted an additional retest, but it is generally recommended to attend additional approved training prior to making the request. Each request will be processed individually, and approvals are on a case-by-case basis.
Every two years, you will need to recertify in order to maintain your license. As part of this process, you will need to complete a predetermined amount of continuing education credits, currently set at 20 hours, during the two year period of your current certificate.
Continuing education requirements help ensure that all pharmacy technicians are up to date on the latest industry developments and applicable law or regulation changes. In order to qualify, the course taken must be approved by the PTCB, and proof of completion will need to be supplied.
While certain courses are mandatory, such as those designed to cover changes in any applicable laws or regulations, others may be selected from an approved list of training, allowing a person to customize portions of their educational experience.
Reinstating your CPhT
If you do not complete the renewal process before your current certification expires, you can apply to have your certificate reinstated, as long as you are still within the first year of the certificate’s expiration date. Minimum requirements for continuing education must be met prior to your request, just as with a license renewal, but additional course work will be required in the area of pharmacy law to ensure your knowledge is current in that area. Proof of completion for all continuing education credits must be supplied and must be from an approved source.
Failure to Reinstate
If you are unable to keep your certification current, and do not get it reinstated within one year of its expiration, you will need to pass the examination again prior to regaining your certification. As long as you are not beyond the retest limit, no special permission is necessary.
The majority of pharmacy technicians (an estimated 52 percent based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics findings for 2014) find employment within standalone pharmacies and drug stores, though opportunities may exist in area hospitals and clinics, and pharmacy sections within superstores or grocery stores.
Many pharmacy technicians have the opportunity to work full time, though part time positions may also be available. Depending on the pharmacy’s operating schedule, night and weekend work may be required, though other locations will operate closer to a more traditional dayshift.
Based on the nature of the work, many pharmacy technicians will spend the majority of the workday on their feet, moving between medication preparation, customer service, cashiering, and other duties as necessary. The required attire may vary depending on the pharmacy location. Some locations may prefer the use of medical scrubs, while others may require a form of business casual. Certain chain pharmacies may provide a portion of the required attire, such as a store vest or shift. Regardless of the environment, all pharmacy technicians must wear an appropriate name tag that lists their current position.
The requirements to be a pharmacy technician may vary by state, or by business in states where regulation is limited. Since most certification occurs at the national level, many certified pharmacy technicians find the ability to transition their career to a new location fairly simple.
Additionally, the variety of shifts available can make it easier to find a schedule that works for your needs, including the pursuit of additional education or training to further your career.
With the upper 10 percent of pharmacy technicians making more than $45,030, some may choose to make being a pharmacy technician a career in itself. Along with respectable earnings potential, many full time positions will come with a complement of benefits, such as medical and retirement.
For those who choose to advance their career, completing the necessary education and licensing to become a pharmacist can be the logical next step. Pharmacists must complete a doctoral or professional degree program in the field of pharmacology prior to completing any licensing exams. Many professional programs take approximately four years to complete, though any prior education gained while pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician may apply towards some of those requirements.
Upon completion, pharmacists can perform additional duties, such as offering information regarding the safe use of medications to customers, conduct certain health screenings, and administering immunizations. In 2015, the median annual wage for pharmacists was $121,500.
Others may find that working as a pharmacy technician provides a respectable introduction to the medical field as a whole, sparking an interest in working towards a variety of other medical careers. Some employers may even provide education assistance to help employees pursue their interest in medical professions that are in demand within the facility, providing a more cost effective route for those who may want to work into higher paying medical positions, but may not be prepared for the associated costs.