Go Behind the Counter | Pharmacy Staff Spotlight
When you choose to do business with a community pharmacy, you choose to take a step towards better health. Unlike traditional chain pharmacies, community pharmacies are owned and operated by people who live and work in your neighborhood 一 and who are personally invested in your well-being. Community pharmacies have a unique ability to talk to you, understand you, and ultimately provide you with better care. This leads to better outcomes for you and your family. In addition to the health benefits, though, shopping at a community pharmacy gives you the opportunity to support small business owners and give back to your community. In this case, everyone wins.
Choosing the right pharmacy is only the first step, though. If you want to make the most out of your pharmacy experience, you should get to know the people behind the counter. When you establish a connection with your pharmacy’s staff, you will feel more comfortable asking questions, getting answers, and working together to meet your goals. With the pharmacy staff by your side, you can achieve optimal health.
To get to know the staff, though, you first have to learn who they are and what they do. Learn more about who works in a pharmacy, what their roles and responsibilities are, and how they can help you 一 because in the case of community pharmacy, creating a connection matters.
The Pharmacy Lineup
Community pharmacies are staffed by professionals of all kinds, with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some community pharmacies are small, with only a handful of employees. Others have dozens of people on hand. In general, though, community pharmacies are staffed by three kinds of professionals: pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy support staff. Here’s what you should know about each of them:
- Main responsibilities: Pharmacists are the most well-known of all pharmacy professionals. They are the backbone of the industry, and in many ways, of community healthcare as a whole. While many people think of pharmacists as prescription fillers, they actually have many more responsibilities similar to that of doctors and nurses. Pharmacists perform many clinical services, like tests, vaccinations, and patient counseling 一 and depending on which services your pharmacy offers, you can have quick and easy access to them. Pharmacists are also in charge of supervising pharmacy technicians and support staff. Most pharmacies have multiple pharmacists, but they generally have one head pharmacist, known as the pharmacist-in-charge (PIC).
- Education and experience: Pharmacists undergo extensive training before they can start working with patients. After completing a traditional 4-year undergraduate program, pharmacy students go on to work towards a Pharm.D. degree. The Doctor of Pharmacy degree takes 4 years to complete, generally followed by a 1- to 2-year residency program. Even the newest pharmacists have had years of experience in the field, so you can be confident that they have the necessary training to get you the care you need.
- How they can help you: Pharmacists can help you with any health issue that you might encounter. They can dispense your routine prescriptions, administer your annual flu shot, or recommend you the best over-the-counter medications. They can also answer your health questions and concerns and help you feel comfortable with your treatment plan. As an added bonus, pharmacists are considered to be the most accessible healthcare providers, so they should be your first call in any health matter.
- Main responsibilities: Think of pharmacy technicians, or pharmacy techs, as pharmacy assistants. Techs work under pharmacists to fill prescriptions, treat patients, and uphold proper protocols. They may also help with reporting and documentation so that pharmacists have more time to work with patients one-on-one. Techs don’t have as many responsibilities as pharmacists (like performing clinical services), but they are still seen as the pharmacist’s right-hand man. Thus, they are an equally valuable asset in the pharmacy.
- Main responsibilities: Pharmacy techs are required to hold a high school diploma, as well as complete a state-approved pharmacy technician certification program. Aside from their education, most pharmacy techs learn on the job and gain experience by working with other professionals. Their real-world and practical knowledge make them well-equipped to care for you and your family.
- How they can help you: Pharmacy techs act as a liaison between pharmacists and patients. When pharmacists are not available, pharmacy techs can often fill in the gaps and perform many of the same tasks. However, because they are not responsible for clinical services, they usually have more time and availability than pharmacists do. If your pharmacist is not available, a pharmacy tech can probably get you the help that you need.
Pharmacy Support Staff
- Main responsibilities: “Support staff” is an all-encompassing term for employees who work at the pharmacy but are not pharmacists or pharmacy techs. Support staff can be cashiers or clerks, administrative assistants, delivery drivers, or serve in any other supporting role. Depending on their position, they may take on many different jobs at the pharmacy: recording patient information, updating files, ordering inventory, distributing prescriptions, etc.
- Education and experience: Pharmacy support staff have a wide range of backgrounds. Some employees may be high school or college students looking to gain experience. Some may have high school diplomas or college degrees. Some pharmacies even hire pharmacy interns: students in pharmacy school who are working towards their own Pharm.D. Pharmacy interns perform both clinical work and behind-the-scenes work, assisting where they are needed.
- How they can help you: Support staff can help you in both direct and indirect ways. If you have a non-health-related concern 一 like scheduling, billing, or delivery 一 they can be reached directly to get information. Indirectly, they keep the daily operations running so that pharmacists and techs can work with you. If pharmacists and techs are the foundations of a pharmacy, support staff are the glue that holds them all together. You can’t have one without the other.
Become a Familiar Face
Now that you know more about pharmacy staff 一 including who they are, what they do, and how they can help you 一 you can feel confident in starting a conversation and creating a connection with them. When you take your next trip to the pharmacy, set aside time to get to know the staff. With routine visits and regular conversation, you will become a familiar face and see the benefits that come with it.
In this case, taking the first step pays off. After all, one simple gesture can mark the beginning of a long-lasting relationship that keeps you happy and healthy.
Don’t have a community pharmacy, or looking to find a new one? Consult our Pharmacy Finder to get set up with the best pharmacy in your area.