A Guide to Understanding the Requirements of an Inpatient Pharmacy Tech

Pharmacy Technician Jobs: The Duties of a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technician jobs involve ensuring patients receive properly filled medications. Read this guide about the duties of an inpatient pharmacy technician.

If you’ve ever had to stay in the hospital overnight, no doubt you’ve been greeted a few times by a tiny plastic cup full of tablets. Or a bag of IV medication. Or the dreaded suppository.

However you received it, medication is part of almost any hospital stay. And getting the medication to the right place is the job of the hospital pharmacy.

Pharmacy technicians work behind the scenes in every pharmacy. They fill prescriptions, take patient information, and make sure medication goes where it should.

Normally, we think of pharmacy techs in outpatient settings, like chain pharmacies. But they serve an important function as part of inpatient teams, too.

Inpatient Pharmacy Care

An impatient pharmacy technician takes responsibility for the medications of some of the most vulnerable people in society, working in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term care clinics.

Working with medically fragile populations can be a stressful position. But, it is also incredibly rewarding, in job satisfaction as well as pay. The average pay for an inpatient pharmacy tech is almost $2/hr higher than one in an outpatient facility.

But what are the key duties for inpatient pharmacy technician jobs? What makes an inpatient position so different from an outpatient one? And how can you get a job in the industry?

Let’s take a look at the answers to those questions. Keep reading for more.

Where are Inpatient Pharmacy Technician Jobs?

In an outpatient setting, patients pick up meds to take home. An “inpatient” setting means patients stay overnight or longer. So medications need to be come to them.

Usually, this is a hospital. But psychiatric facilities, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes are all inpatient, too.

The unique challenges here lie in the fact that patients in these facilities often have unique medical needs and may be medically very fragile. They may also be in residence long-term, meaning that a pharmacy tech may become very familiar with certain names and medications in conjunction.

Or, many patients may come and go very quickly, meaning that pharm techs must be ready for new names and new medications each day.

If a facility sees mostly psychiatric patients, it may be important to be familiar with SSRI and Anti-psychotic medications, while someone in a nursing home facility may have their hands more often on medications for blood pressure and heart health. The jobs vary in scope, but their responsibilities remain much the same across the spectrum.

Because inpatient pharmacy jobs tend to pay better than chain pharmacies and offer better benefits, these jobs are in high demand and have high competition. If you are after one, you will have to keep an eye and ear on job postings.

You may even have luck looking abroad. Many places are actively seeking healthcare professionals to relocate (take a look at Ireland!).

The Role of an Inpatient Pharmacy Tech

But wait…doesn’t a pharmacist do all the work in a pharmacy?

Just like a nurse would laugh if you suggested such a thing about a doctor, pharmacy techs would roll their eyes at such a suggestion.

Pharmacy techs are the lifeblood of any pharmacy. A pharmacist oversees operations and is in charge, but techs are the ones filling prescriptions, keeping an eye on inventory, and even compounding medications.

Their job is to work with the pharmacist to ensure that medications are dispensed properly and that the medication gets where it needs to go. They may also be responsible for helping to answer questions for patients and families if necessary.

In essence, a pharmacy tech keeps the pharmacy running, acting as the hands and arms of a pharmacist who simply cannot do fifteen things at once. And the job of a tech is more than just dumping pills in a bottle and hoping for the best.

But what are the specific duties of a pharmacy tech, specifically in an inpatient facility? Let’s take a look.

Prescription Receiving

The first responsibility is simply keeping track of prescriptions as they come in. Especially in hospital settings, doctors and nurses spend a large amount of the day ordering medications for their patients.

There is rarely downtime for this part of the job.

Now, in a world of E-prescriptions, it may seem like this job is far easier than in the past. However, it is still up to the pharmacy tech to confirm patient information and check insurance coverage before the medication is prepared and the prescription filled.

Dispensing Duties

Once the prescription is confirmed and insurance established, the dispensing can begin.

Many hospitals are switching over to automatic dispensing machines, which count pill medications automatically. This makes the techs jobs significantly easier and eliminates the risk of human error in dosing.

If your facility does not have one of these machines, however, the pharmacy technician will need to count out the tablets or pills and ensure that the dosing and amount are both correct before sending the medication along to the patient.

Medication Delivery

While some hospitals have dedicated orderlies for the job of running medications from the pharmacy, often this job falls to the pharmacy technicians.

Even in hospitals with a dedicated medication courier staff, techs may find themselves delivering medications on a particularly busy day or a day when multiple staff members are out.

This part of the job is simply confirming the medication and patient, and getting the medication up to the patient as quickly as possible. In some facilities, the tech may deliver a batch of medications to the staff on a given floor so they can be dispensed. In others, the techs themselves may take medication directly to the patient.

Each facility has different policies, but medication delivery is usually on the list.

Medication Reconciliation

Medical reconciliation typically happens at triage, and usually falls to a pharmacy tech dedicated to this specific task.

As new patients arrive at the hospital or facility, it is the job of the medication reconciliation specialist, typically a pharmacy technician, to take the patients medication history, including medication type and dosage, and compare it against physician orders and discharge papers during the patients stay.

This task is vital, as it helps protect against potentially harmful drug interactions for the patient during their treatment. It requires attention to detail and excellent listening and critical thinking skills.

Inventory and Organization

Keeping track of hundreds of different medications is no small feat. But the security of hospital medications, and especially of controlled substances, is paramount.

It’s also vital to ensure that the hospital doesn’t run out of medications and that the pharmacy is well stocked.

A pharmacist may do the actual ordering, but techs assist in keeping track of medication as it goes out, cataloging newly arrived medications as they come in, and keeping the pharmacy supplies organized and documented.

This ensures accuracy in dispensing, and that the pharmacy never suddenly runs out of a vital medication in the middle of an outbreak.

Compounding

As we all know, medication doesn’t just come in pill forms. Some meds need to be made into creams, tinctures, liquids, or IV meds. For that, compounding is a must.

And who does the compounding in most pharmacies? That’s right, the pharmacy techs.

Compounding is a specialty in pharmacies, and while not all commercial pharmacies do it, for residential and inpatient facilities, it is a must.

Pharmacy techs must familiarize themselves with standardized medication recipes and be able to follow them exactly. Pharmaceuticals is no place for approximation.

Getting the Job

If you are interested in a job as an inpatient pharmacy technician, how can you break into the industry?

Pharmacy techs are usually required to have specific pharmacy technician training. This program may be a 10-month licensure program or a specialized associates degree taking two years to complete.

Either way, training is typically fairly short and inexpensive compared to more in-depth programs. These training will also provide you with many of the prerequisites needed to move on to pharmacy school, should you decide to do so.

Once training is complete, you will need to complete a certification exam (depending on your state) and obtain your certification to practice in a pharmacy. You’ll need to participate in continuing education courses and renew your certification every two years.

Is a Pharmacy Tech Job Right for You?

Pharmacy work requires excruciating attention to detail. The health and wellbeing of patients may rest in your ability to accurately count and dispense medications.

It also requires the ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Health care professionals of all kinds work long hours, and stay on their feet most of the day. You’ll need to be sure you can handle the stress.

Make the Move

Pharmacy technician duties are often fast-paced, but rewarding. For those looking for a dynamic, challenging environment in health care without the hassle of years and years of schooling, a pharmacy tech position may be a good choice.

Looking for more information on a rewarding career in healthcare? We’d love to help! Take a look here for more on pharmacy technician jobs!