If you’re hoping for a hands-on role in healthcare that you can train for in less than a year, consider a career as a pharmacy assistant.
Pharmacy assistants play an important part in helping licensed pharmacists address patients’ needs. They carry out a mix of clerical, technical, and customer service tasks that keep a pharmacy functioning smoothly.
In fact, when customers come to get a prescription or an over-the-counter medication, the pharmacy assistant is typically the person they deal with most often.
So what do pharmacy assistants actually do? If you take on this role, what would your daily responsibilities include?
Read on to learn about the top 5 pharmacy assistant duties.
1. SERVING CUSTOMERS
Customer service is one of the most important pharmacy assistant duties.
You will be responsible for greeting patients and collecting all the information required to fill their prescriptions.
That means verifying things like patients’ names, addresses, and birthdates, along with details about their insurance coverage and any allergies they may have.
You’ll also let patients know how long they can expect to wait for their prescription to be ready. It’s important to set realistic expectations so that people don’t get frustrated.
A pharmacy assistant’s role also involves answering phones, providing information about products available in the pharmacy, and helping customers find what they’re looking for.
Pharmacy assistant training will give you a solid understanding of different types of non-prescription medications and help you develop your communication and customer service skills.
Note: You must be careful to refer any questions about medication recommendations or a particular medicine’s purpose or use to the pharmacist.
2. PREPARING PRESCRIPTIONS
A big part of your job as a pharmacy assistant is preparing prescriptions.
You will calculate dosages and measure, mix, reconstitute, and compound meds under the direction of a pharmacist. You could mix ingredients for creams, powders, ointments, capsules, and more.
You will also package and label the prescriptions and record the dosage information.
If you work in a hospital pharmacy, you might also prepare IVs or nutritional solutions.
Keep in mind that pharmacy assistant duties are not quite as extensive as pharmacy technician duties, as Herzing instructor Bob Orser explains:
“The main difference is that Pharmacy Assistants are not licensed or regulated by the College of Pharmacy. Pharmacy Assistants in Ontario are able to read and process a prescription. They are allowed to select the drug and prepare it, and they can adjudicate an insurance claim.
On the other hand, Pharmacy Technician is a protected title in Ontario. They can do all the same things as assistants—but they also have signing authority for refills, and can transfer a prescription from one pharmacy to another.”
(Learn more about the role of a pharmacy assistant vs a pharmacy technician.)
3. PROCESSING PAYMENTS AND INSURANCE CLAIMS
Pharmacy assistants are commonly responsible for working the cash register.
When a prescription is completed, you need to figure out how much of the cost (if any) is covered by third parties. This is a process known as adjudication.
You will use special software that compares the cost of the medication with the benefits provided by the Ontario Drug Benefit program or the patient’s insurance company.
Within seconds, you get a result that tells you whether that medication is covered and how much the patient needs to pay.
You can then take cash or other forms of payment from the patient.
4. MANAGING INVENTORY
Keeping pharmacy shelves stocked with current products is another key duty of a pharmacy assistant.
You will likely be responsible for checking the levels of non-prescription merchandise, rotating stock, and ordering new supplies when necessary.
That also means making sure any expired medications or products are taken off the shelves. You need to gather expired products and follow proper procedures for disposing of them.
In addition, if a recall is announced, you must immediately remove the product and keep it in an isolated area until you get full details on how to handle it.
5. PROVIDING ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT
Pharmacy assistants have a variety of general clerical tasks.
In addition to maintaining patient records, you may be responsible for preparing invoices, receipts, memos, and letters.
You could organize incoming faxes, file completed documentation, and generate reports as necessary.
In some cases, you might even help the pharmacist coordinate callbacks (when the pharmacist contacts a patient’s doctor to clarify details of a prescription).
DOES A CAREER AS A PHARMACY ASSISTANT APPEAL TO YOU?
Want to learn more about becoming a pharmacy assistant?
Have a look at the Pharmacy Assistant program from Herzing College. It’s one of the shortest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in Ottawa.
Training takes just 10 months and includes a 4-week internship in a local pharmacy.
Our grads have been hired by pharmacies throughout Ottawa, including Pharmasave, Shoppers Drug Mart, Centric Health Care, Rexall Pharma Plus, and others.
Click below to get further program details and chat live with an Admissions Advisor who can answer all your questions. We’re here to help!