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Duties of a Pharmacy Assistant

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pharmacy assistant is someone who works under the supervision of a pharmacist. They are key to helping pharmacists out, whether it’s in a retail setting or a busy hospital. With important jobs and duties, they are essential to helping people get their medications on time and smoothly. 

What does a pharmacy assistant do?

In general, the duties of this job include:

  • Preparing medication and filling prescriptions under supervision  
  • Maintaining proper drug storage 
  • Entering data such as patient information and prescriptions into the computer systems 
  • Helping to prepare, package, and label the prescriptions 
  • Maintaining inventory of prescription record keeping systems 
  • Placing and receiving orders

Where do pharmacy assistants work?

Responsibilities can change depending on where you work and the level of training you have. At a drug store or community pharmacy, you are more likely to be answering the phone, dealing with payments and preparing insurance claims from third-parties. 

In a hospital, assistants may also have to restock solutions and drugs, restock emergency kits, and fill dose carts that are sent to nursing stations. As you will be an essential worker, you may have to work shifts which could include weekends and evenings. 

In addition to drug stores and hospitals, pharmacy assistants can work at other health care facilities, medical centers, clinics, laboratories, educational institutions or have government jobs with more or less the same responsibilities. 

Of course, wherever you choose to work as a pharmacy assistant, you will be dealing with different types of people and customers, which can make the job all the more exciting. 

Additional skills

To do the job, you’ll also need to have knowledge and skills in areas such as math, customer service, and some medical and computing skills. 

Compounding and getting the medication ready will require the ability to do some math, like calculations, so the prescription is prepared well. As you’ll be dealing with people, it’s good to have some prior experience in customer service and enjoy talking to those with questions and inquiries. 

Medical knowledge you need will include the basics of topics such as anatomy and physiology which will all around make you better and more helpful at what you do. Being able to use a computer well is also important because you will be dealing a lot with record keeping and management systems. 

Not only do pharmacy assistants need the technical skills mentioned above, the top skills that are high in demand for the job is having effective personal skills. This includes:

  • Reliability
  • Accuracy
  • Being client focused 
  • Dependable
  • Having good verbal communication skills

According to ALIS, one of the most important abilities for a pharmacy assistant to have is a caring attitude towards others. As they are working in the healthcare industry and helping people who may be going through sensitive health issues, this comes as no surprise. 

Assistants keep busy and are often on their feet. If that’s something you enjoy, this might be the career for you. 

Basema Al-Tayeh, Instructor at ABM College, talks about what it takes to become a Pharmacy Assistant and the training that you need to be successful in this video: 

Pharmacy assistant vs. technician

A question that often comes up is what is the difference between a pharmacy assistant and a pharmacy technician? The main difference is that a pharmacy technician has a few extra duties as compared to a pharmacy assistant. They are allowed to prepare medications without supervision (but only after the pharmacist has deemed it appropriate) and sign off on prescriptions they receive. 

The future of pharmacy assistants

Pharmacy assistants are high in demand, with 55 per cent of employers in Alberta hiring assistants over the past two years. Pharmacy assistants in Alberta are expected to have an increase in job growth from 2019 to 2023 due to the older baby boomer generation retiring from their jobs. 

Employers are known to prefer applicants who are graduates of a pharmacy assistant program or who have pharmacy experience. A related diploma can also give you the pharmacy experience that’s needed, as it offers a practicum to get you started. Getting an education in this field will give you the knowledge and experience you need to become a successful pharmacy assistant. 

Many who work in the field consider it a good and rewarding career as they see the difference they make in the lives of others, and the direct impact their work has in their community. They are a part of making people healthy and allowing them to live better lives - and what could be more rewarding than that? 

To learn more about becoming a pharmacy assistant, you can check out the complete guide to success and learn about qualities that will make you stand out

Last updated April 2021*

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