As Canada’s population ages, the demand for pharmaceuticals is likewise expected to increase. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that the number of pharmacists in Ontario has nearly doubled in the past decade. All those new pharmacists require a dedicated team behind them to make sure their pharmacies are running smoothly and can fully address the needs of their customers.
Among the many important roles within a pharmaceutical team are pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. If you’ve ever considered a career in a pharmacy, you may be wondering what technicians and assistants do and how these two careers differ from one another.
Read on to learn how pharmacy technicians and assistants play very different, but essential, roles behind the pharmacy counter.
Pharmacy Technicians Focus on the Technical Aspects of the Pharmacy
A pharmacy technician’s main responsibility is to support the pharmacist by helping to fill prescriptions. Pharmacy technicians must know how to measure and mix medications, retrieve a patient’s medical history, and take calls from doctor’s offices. Additionally, technicians assist wit—and may even oversee—inventory management, including reordering products and helping to stock and organize shelves.
To become a pharmacy technician, you’ll need to register with the Ontario College of Pharmacists. While there are several different paths to registration, one of the most common is by completing a pharmacy technician program that is accredited by the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP). Registration also requires aspiring technicians to complete an exam and prove good character. The purpose of registration is to ensure that pharmacy technicians across the province all meet the same standards.
Pharmacy Assistants Focus on Customer Service and Clerical Duties
The role of the pharmacy assistant focuses primarily on clerical duties, such as answering phone calls and taking prescriptions from customers to give to the pharmacist or technician. These professionals also play an essential role in maintaining the public face of the pharmacy by greeting customers, taking down their contact information and ensuring retail displays are tidy and well-stocked. Since pharmacy assistants interact quite a bit with customers, a good pharmacy assistant program will help students develop essential communication skills, ensuring they thrive in their careers.
In some pharmacies, assistants may be allowed take on more advanced duties behind the counter, such as counting medications and entering new orders. Sometimes technicians may even be permitted to take part in mixing medications and labelling bottles; however, this is only done under the direct supervision of the pharmacist or pharmacy technician, who verify the pharmacy assistant’s work.
Pharmacy assistants do not have to be registered, and training to become a pharmacy assistant typically takes less time than for becoming a technician.
Choosing Whether to Become a Pharmacy Technician or Pharmacy Assistant
So which career path is right for you? This will depend greatly on your personality and your career goals. If you want to get started in your new career quickly, then the fact that the pharmacy assistant program can be completed in less time than the technician program is definitely a big incentive for becoming an assistant. Also, if you are attracted to the customer service aspect of working at a pharmacy then the assistant position will likely be more worthwhile.
While technicians also need to have excellent customer service skills, most of their work is done behind the counter. As such, if you prefer the more technical and medical aspects of the pharmacy, such as filling prescriptions, calling doctor’s offices and tracking down patients’ medical histories, then you may be more suited to a role as a technician. Additionally, a career as a pharmacy technician may be right for you if you’re naturally independent and can work with little supervision and guidance, since technicians are supervised only by the pharmacist, unlike assistants, who are supervised by both the pharmacist and technician.
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Contact KLC College today to learn more about our career training programs!