Characteristics of a Pharmacy Technician

July 1, 2014

The Most Important Characteristics for a Retail Pharmacy Technician

I have worked in both retail and hospital pharmacies, so my students often ask, “Which do you like best, hospital or retail?  And what are the differences between the two?”  The answer to the first question is difficult for me, because there is much to love about each work situation.  This week, however, I will focus on retail pharmacy and why I enjoyed it so much.

More than 75% of pharmacy technicians work in a retail pharmacy.  This can range from a small, home-town pharmacy with one pharmacist to a large retail chain, employing many pharmacists and technicians.  Retail pharmacy is all about customer service!  The pharmacy technician is the first person the patient comes in contact with in the retail pharmacy, and first impressions are critically important.  My distance learning students were recently given the assignment to interview a retail pharmacist, and one of the questions they were to ask was “What are the most important characteristics for a retail pharmacy technician?”  Here are a few responses:

 “It’s important to be a caring, compassionate person while at the same time being a little “thick skinned”. Technicians usually take the brunt of unhappy customers. Staying calm and being a good listener often resolves a bad situation. Another is multitasking; pharmacies are typically very busy and will require a pharmacy technician to handle multiple problems at the same time.”

 “Particular traits that would be helpful are excellent communication, caring, organized, compassionate, ability to interact with customers, and a lot of patience.

“The job requires that a person working within a pharmacy have compassion, and empathy.  A smile will go a long way within this profession.  It is difficult at times, but just try to smile thru it.  In addition, a sense of humor is helpful and will aid in brightening up the day.”

The biggest difference between retail and hospital pharmacy work is patient contact.  In a hospital, a pharmacy technician has zero patient contact.  Instead, they work with pharmacists and other technicians, as well as nurses, surgical technicians, and other medical personnel.  In a retail pharmacy, a technician works with patients all day long.  This can be very satisfying to the person who enjoys a service-type environment!  You may help a mother with a sick child understand the directions on the back of an over-the-counter cold remedy.  Or you call an insurance company to approve payment coverage for a patient’s new medication.  You can help patients stay compliant with their medications by alerting them when they need refills.  At the end of the day, the retail pharmacy technician knows they have made a positive difference in the lives of many people!

Compassion and empathy, patience and a ‘thick skin’.  Professionalism and common sense the ability to multi-task and stand on your feet for long periods of time.  And finally (my personal favorite), a smile and a sense of humor!  All of these are the characteristics of a great retail pharmacy technician!