Considering a Career Training Program? Learn the Difference Between a Pharmacy Assistant and Technician

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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.

KLC College’s pharmacy technician program is CCAPP accredited

KLC College’s pharmacy technician program is CCAPP accredited

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.

KLC College’s pharmacy assistant courses teaches students about pharmacy management and inventory

KLC College’s pharmacy assistant courses teaches students about pharmacy management and inventory

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.

Are you interested in pursuing a new career?

Contact KLC College today to learn more about our career training programs!

A Guide to Drug Dosage Forms for Students Considering a Pharmacy Assistant Training Program

become a pharmacy assistant

Medication can be sold or administered as tablets, creams, injections, drops, capsules and more. These different ways that pharmaceutical drugs are administered, along with the physical forms that they take, are collectively referred to as drug dosage forms.

One of the most important responsibilities a pharmacy assistant has is preparing pharmaceutical drugs for customers. A part of that responsibility includes understanding what drug dosage forms are, how they are used and the advantages and disadvantage of each form. If you’re considering a pharmacy assistant career, read on to learn more.

Pharmacy Assistants Should Know About These Drug Dosage Form Categories

There are two categories under which the different types of drug dosage forms fall: route of administration and physical form. Route of administration refers to how the drug actually enters the body, such as by being ingested or applied topically.

Different routes of administration include, but are not limited to:

  • Oral
  • Topical
  • Inhaled
  • Subcutaneous
  • Rectal
  • Intravenous

The physical form, on the other hand, refers to whether the drug is administered as a solid, semisolid, liquid or gas. There is a lot of overlap between the route of administration and the physical form a drug takes. A drug that can be inhaled, for example, such as an aerosol, will come in a gaseous form. One that is applied topically, on the other hand, will come in a semisolid form.

pharmacy assistant training program

Pharmacy assistant training teaches students that drugs come in many different physical dose forms

Pharmacy Assistants Understand Why Different Drug Forms Are Used

Various circumstances, such as the condition being treated, the needs of the patient and how the drug is best absorbed by the body, will determine which drug dosage form is best. Once you’ve completed your training and become a pharmacy assistant, you will find that most people tend to prefer drugs that are administered orally, especially as tablets or capsules. However, oral medication is not suitable for everyone. The patient may be uncooperative, such as if they suffer from dementia or if they are young children. Also, stomach acid and enzymes may interfere with how the drug is absorbed. In such cases, a suppository or an injection may be more practical for administering the drug.

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Pharmacy assistants work with oral medication frequently, since it is generally preferred by patients

Suppositories and injections are both invasive and many patients, especially young children, tend to dislike them. The career training you’ll receive in a good pharmacy assistant program will help you understand the basics of pharmacology, including which dosage forms are more invasive than others. For example, a non-invasive drug dosage form, like a topical cream, may be ideal for a patient who has a rash or muscle pain. The downside with topicals, however, is that they are absorbed into the body at a slower rate than other forms of medication, such as intravenous, for example, which allows the medication to enter the bloodstream rather quickly.

There are various other factors to consider when choosing the right drug dosage form. Some dosage forms are easier to measure than others, while some need to be absorbed into specific areas of the body. As you will learn, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all drug dosage form and understanding the basic differences between each one is part of the job of a pharmacy assistant.

Are you interested in enrolling in a pharmacy assistant training program?

Contact KLC College today to learn how you can get started!

5 Signs You’re Ready for Pharmacy Assistant Training

pharmacy assistant training program

Career choices are often difficult, so it’s important to take stock of your own individual skills and qualifications when making a decision. Once you recognize your strengths, it’s much easier to pinpoint the line of work to which you are best suited.

A career as a pharmacy assistant, for instance, is one which requires a specialized skillset that includes a broad range of technical and soft skills, including customer service, attention to detail, and the ability to retain complex medical knowledge. Here’s how to tell if it is the right career for you.

Pharmacy Assistants Possess Great Organizational Skills

Pharmacy assistants are often tasked with the distribution of complex medications through the filling of prescriptions. Walk into any pharmacy and you’ll see a variety of different products in front of and behind the counter, and excellent attention to detail is required to ensure that no errors are made during drug dispensing.

This is done by maintaining an organized workspace, where products are stored correctly at all times. If you like to stay organized and tidy in your personal and working lives, then pharmacy assistant training could be a great fit.

Pharmacy assistants have excellent attention to detail

Pharmacy assistants have excellent attention to detail

Effective Communicators are a Great Asset in Pharmacies

Communication skills are valuable in so many careers, and it’s no different for pharmacy assistants. They must maintain close interaction with work colleagues, including pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, to ensure that all staff are notified of potential problems.

Pharmacy assistants are also in close contact with customers, many of whom may be in distress as they seek a remedy for their own ailment. Effective communication skills are vital in providing clarity to customers about the medication they are about to take, including the directions for use.

Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition Can Make Pharmacy Assistant Training Easier

Some students may already possess knowledge or experience in a pharmacy environment or another course, and this can be used to your advantage in the pharmacy assistant training program at KLC College.

Before beginning your course, you can take a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) challenge exam. If you achieve a score of at least 75%, then you can use that certification as part of your further studies. This is a great way to get a head start on the path to a pharmacy assistant career, so find out more about your eligibility.

The Modern Pharmacy Needs Students With Excellent IT Skills

Pharmacies include a wide variety of medication and other health-related items, and computer software is important in tracking their ongoing availability. Customer records must also be maintained, so proficiency in computer skills is highly valuable among pharmacy assistants.

Many modern pharmacies are able to accept prescription details online, too, which speeds up the distribution of necessary medication even further. If you enjoy working on computers, then you’ll be able to put those skills to good use as a pharmacy assistant.

Pharmacy assistants should be comfortable using a computer

Pharmacy assistants should be comfortable using a computer

Use Your Math Skills to Good Effect When You Become a Pharmacy Assistant

The medication distributed by pharmacies is complex, and pharmacy assistants need math skills to perform calculations and ensure customers are being given the right prescriptions. KLC College’s program, for example, requires that students have a minimum of one senior math subject with their Grade 12 Provincial Secondary School Diploma. If you’re a wiz with numbers, a pharmacy assistant career is a great way to put your skills to good use in the modern workplace.

Does it sound like you have what it takes to become a pharmacy assistant?

Find out more about our dedicated pharmacy assistant diploma program at KLC College.