As we celebrate National Pharmacy Technician Day , I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you an insight into the role we play in patient care.
I am currently a Student Pharmacy Technician. For me, there isn’t a typical day. I go away to college several times a year to study, learning about subjects like the actions and uses of medicines, human physiology and pharmacy law. My time at work is spent rotating throughout the pharmacy, experiencing a variety of roles undertaken by pharmacy technicians.
In order to practise as a pharmacy technician, we must complete an approved qualification and register with the General Pharmaceutical Council. Our initial training usually takes two years, but we will be continuously learning, developing and improving throughout.
At the moment I am working with Medicines Management Technicians on the Medical Assessment Unit, taking medicine histories from patients, ensuring any medicines taken pre-admission are documented in the medical notes and prescribing discrepancies are highlighted to the pharmacist. I have found this the most engaging rotation as I love the interaction with patients, and the satisfaction I get from successfully and accurately investigating complex histories.
In pharmacy, we have a production unit. Technical Services are responsible for sourcing and producing products such as Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs), Chemotherapy and Parenteral Nutrition, ensuring all products are made in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). Technicians are involved in producing worksheets, assembling the raw materials, accuracy checking, and making the products. Alongside them, Quality Control technicians monitor the cleanliness of our aseptic suites and confirm all unlicensed medicines are safe for use.
Technicians in our procurement department are responsible for sourcing genuine products from approved suppliers in accordance with local and regional contracts. They ensure appropriate stock levels are maintained and source a variety of products including unlicensed medicines and controlled drugs.
The majority of prescriptions and orders comes through the dispensary and distribution and technicians take a leadership role in these areas. Distribution, which deals with stock orders, is usually overseen by a technician. Their role involves issuing and picking orders and advising and supporting the pharmacy ATOs. In the dispensary, technicians label, dispense and accuracy check prescriptions, hand out to and counsel patients on their medicines and liaise with other healthcare professionals and community pharmacies to ensure the timely supply of medicines.
Pharmacy technicians don’t only work in hospitals, we can practice in variety of settings, each presenting their own challenges but all providing a rewarding career. Pharmacy technicians play a vital role in primary care, ensuring prescriptions are dispensed accurately and patients understand why and how to take their medicines. In community pharmacies, Technicians advise on over-the-counter medicines and can provide additional public health services such as smoking cessation. Technicians also work in prisons and care homes, dispensing medicines and ensuring patients get the most from their treatments, and for CCGs responsible for commissioning health and care services.
With experience, technicians are able to specialise, for example in education and training, IT, Medicines Information or paediatrics and most of our pharmacy managers and senior managers are technicians.
I love the variety of the role, knowing that we are making a positive impact on the patient’s care and continually improving and broadening my knowledge and skill set. I wasn’t in a position to be able to go back to university and so this qualification is allowing me to have a rewarding and fulfilling career.
In the not too distant future, technicians will be more visible on the wards and be able to have a greater and more noticeable impact on patient care, taking some of the pressure off our pharmacists.