What exactly does a pharmacy assistant do? What kinds of responsibilities would you have at work, and what does training involve?
If you're considering this career path, these are probably some of the questions you're asking.
In this post, we'd like to offer you a window into both pharmacy assistant training—and the kinds of tasks you'll be expected to perform on a daily basis at work.
These are some of the most important skills we teach pharmacy assistant students. This is the knowledge you'll need to land a good job after college, and begin building a successful career in a retail or hospital pharmacy.
Is this career a good match for your interests and goals? Let's find out.
1. Pharmacy Software
Like most businesses, pharmacies are digitized. Computer programs and software are used to help organize customer information, get work done faster, and streamline daily operations.
You'd have a hard time finding work as a pharmacy assistant without a good grasp of common pharmacy software—like Nexxsys, the computerized pharmaceutical dispensing system used in most pharmacies.
This software is used for a wide range of tasks, including:
- customizing patient records
- monitoring inventory
- generating labels
- storing supplier and doctor information
- refilling, sorting, and processing prescriptions
- scheduling tasks
Quality pharmacy assistant training will include a fair amount of practice on pharmacy software. You'll walk through all the functions, and get the chance to try them out, both during class and at your work placement (internship).
This is key for students who aren't as comfortable with technology. By the end of your program, you should feel totally confident using the software, and ready to apply what you've learned in a real work environment.
2. Drug Preparation
For some students, this is one of the most interesting parts of training. This coursework focuses on actual compounding of drugs (mixing together ingredients according to the strength and dosage required on a prescription).
Pharmacy assistant students learn how to calculate dosages, prepare and measure solutions, and blend ingredients for ointments, creams, powders, solutions, suspensions, and capsules.
You'll also learn how to prepare IV (intravenous) mixtures, used for chemotherapy, nutrition, infusion, and irrigation.
You'll need to use some basic math skills to prepare drugs correctly and avoid dangerous medication errors—so you can expect a solid review of fractions, ratios, percentages, and proportions.
Concerned about rusty math skills? You won't need anything beyond simple high-school level concepts, and will have plenty of opportunity to practice and strengthen your skills during training.
Once you've worked with the numbers a few times, it will begin to feel routine, and totally manageable.
3. Familiarity with Name Brand, Generic, and OTC Products
It's key for pharmacy assistants to become familiar with all of the products available at the pharmacy. This includes name brand pharmaceuticals, generic drugs, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
You won't need to know in-depth information about the chemical components of every single drug or product—but you will need to understand basic uses and differences between products.
For example, you'll get a lot of customers asking about generic versus name brand drugs. What's the real difference? Are these products truly identical? Which should they trust?
Or, a client may ask for your help in selecting an over-the-counter cold medicine, herbal supplement, or something to help with headaches or joint pain.
You'll need to know exactly where these products are shelved, be ready to make simple recommendations—and crucially, you'll need to know when to refer the client to the pharmacist for more information and advice.
Pharmacy assistant training will give you a solid grounding in the most commonly prescribed drugs. You'll learn how these drugs are classified, and which conditions they're used to treat.
You'll also get a good understanding of OTC and herbal products, so you can handle the questions that will come your way on a daily basis at work.
4. Customer Service Techniques
This is definitely a key skill for pharmacy assistants, and truly central to your role in the workplace. Pharmacy assistants are the ones who take customer phone calls, follow up with doctors and third-party billing, greet new clients, and answer all general questions at the pharmacy.
In many ways, they're the face of the business. You'll need to learn pharmacy procedures for greeting patients, cashing out sales, taking calls, and handling complaints.
While most of your interactions at work will be positive and go smoothly, there will always be customers who are feeling anxious or frustrated, and need special support.
Whether it's an issue related to billing and insurance, or a problem getting a refill, pharmacy assistants must be diplomatic, patient, and compassionate.
You'll get thorough training on customer service techniques for handling all kinds of scenarios in the workplace.
These are skills you will absolutely use every day at work. And you'll refine them over time, as you gain experience, and become a master of customer service.
What other key skills can you expect to learn at pharmacy assistant school?
You'll study how to track inventory and order supplies. You'll learn medical terminology and get an overview of human anatomy.
A comprehensive pharmacy assistant program will also include certificates in First Aid and CPR.
Think you'd be a good fit for pharmacy assistant training, and want to learn more about getting your diploma?
Your next step is to speak with Admissions. Admissions can explain how to apply, class schedules, tuition costs, and more.
Chat live with an Admissions Advisor now. Or click below to explore the Pharmacy Assistant program in more detail. We're here to help!