Giving Medical Advice As A Pharmacy Technician [What Can Pharmacy Techs Do]

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a fantastic career path with great advancement opportunities and lucrative pay. However, there are a few rules and guidelines you’ll need to adhere to during your time as a technician.

In this article, we’ll discuss the terms and limitations of a pharmacy technician counseling patients, the difference between a technician and a pharmacist, and a few key pharmacy technician duties.

Can a Pharmacy Technician Counsel a Patient?

First and foremost, let’s discuss the matter of a pharmacy technician counseling patients. This falls in line with the question, what can a pharmacy technician not do?

As a pharmaceutical tech, you are not trained or licensed to advise customers with regard to medications (including over the counter drugs and diet supplements) and their use. Not only do technicians lack the training and knowledge required to give adequate medical advice, but they’re also forthrightly advised not to counsel patients with regard to medications.

This being said, there is some leeway on the matter. Technicians can instruct patients according to the clearly-printed directions on the bottle of medication. While doing so, they should make it clear that they are referring to the directions printed by the manufacturer, and individual use may vary according to a doctor’s instructions.

You are allowed to answer simple questions, like whether or not a medication needs to be taken with food. Use your best judgment to determine whether a given query from a customer exceeds the bounds of common pharmaceutical knowledge.

Can a pharmacist give medical advice? Yes, but within the reasonable and practical limits of a pharmacist’s training. A pharmacist cannot replace the expertise of a licensed healthcare provider, but they are entitled to provide more assistance than a technician can.

As a rule of thumb, refer to a pharmacist for any questions involving patient assessment, the proper administration, dosage, uses, or effects of a medication (whether prescription, OTC, or diet supplement); and for any questions that require a professional opinion or judgment.

Do not be afraid to admit your lack of expertise. Customers appreciate that you are concerned enough to make sure they receive accurate information. When a question deals with the effects or administration of a medication, ask the customer to wait for a moment while you get someone who can provide a professional answer to the question.

In some instances, you may provide medication-related information when providing refills and when directed to do so by a pharmacist. When in doubt, ask the pharmacy manager. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Can Pharmacy Technicians Recommend OTC Products?

Again, as a pharmaceutical tech, you are not trained or licensed to advise customers with regard to medications (including over the counter drugs and diet supplements) and their use.

In the case of OTC medications (over the counter), sometimes customers need basic information that is readily available on the OTC packaging. For example, a customer might ask what an analgesic is, what ‘enteric-coated’ means, which alternative brands are available, or other routine questions that can be safely answered without referring the customer to the pharmacist.

Again, there is some leeway on the matter. You can instruct patients according to the clearly-printed directions on the bottle. Make it clear that you are referring to the directions printed by the manufacturer, and individual use may vary according to a doctor’s instructions.

You are allowed to answer simple questions, like whether or not a medication needs to be taken with food. Use your best judgment to determine whether a given query from a customer exceeds the bounds of common pharmaceutical knowledge.

Refer to a pharmacist for any questions involving the proper administration, dosage, uses, or effects of an OTC  medication or diet supplement, and for any questions requiring a professional opinion or judgment.

Can a Pharmacy Technician Fill Prescriptions?

Yes, filling prescriptions is just one of the many pharmacy technician duties that are performed on a daily basis. As a pharmaceutical tech, you can expect to fill several prescriptions in any given day. Just remember that before you dispense the medications, a pharmacist must review your work to ensure everything is in order and properly filled.

What’s the Difference Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist?

There are several differences, most of them within the bounds of what a pharmacy technician can and can’t do. Essentially, technicians are there to assist the pharmacists with time-consuming work that doesn’t require an advanced level of training and medical knowledge.

Pharmacy technicians may assist with customer communications, confirming eligibility or clearing up discrepancies with medical professionals and insurance providers, submitting refill requests, filling prescriptions, and other essential duties. It is the pharmacists’ job to ensure that everything is filled out correctly, medications are distributed accurately and appropriately, and customers are receiving the information they need.

What’s the Difference Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacy Assistant?

The key difference between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacy assistant is the level of training required for each role, and the subsequent responsibilities that follow. Think of it as a three-tiered hierarchy.

The pharmacists are at the top, and they handle the high-level tasks that require advanced training and knowledge. Below them are the pharmacy technicians who help the pharmacists with their responsibilities. Below them, are pharmacy assistants who complete the most basic tasks to help the entire pharmacy run smoothly.

Assistants will accept prescription drop-offs from patients, answer phones, accept inventory deliveries and unpack inventory for shelving and storage. A pharmacy assistant may also set up retail displays for relevant pharmaceutical products and promotions. This is a standard assistant position, but instead of working at an office, you would work behind a pharmaceutical counter. Becoming a pharmacy assistant is a great way to get your foot in the door of a relevant industry while you pursue a medical career, such as becoming a pharmacist.

What a Pharmacy Technician Can and Can’t Do

With all of the different guidelines and limitations, the lines can get a little blurry. What can a pharmacy technician do? What can a pharmacy technician not do? To make things super simple and concise, we’ve broken it down for you.

What Can a Pharmacy Technician Do?

  • Accept a patient’s prescription request
  • Pack and label prescriptions
  • Complete transactions on a cash register
  • Process insurance claims
  • Manage inventory
  • File essential paperwork

What Can a Pharmacy Technician Not Do?

  • Complete any of the tasks listed above without having a pharmacist review your work before finalization
  • Provide medical advice on prescription medications or OTC drugs
  • Recommend certain medications
  • Review patient medical records

Best Practices for Pharmacy Technicians

Before you go, we thought we’d leave you with a few helpful best practices for pharmacy technicians. These points are simple, and easy to remember, and will help you refrain from accidentally overstepping your boundaries as a pharmaceutical tech.

  • Ask your pharmacist to review everything before finalizing.
  • Never be afraid to inform your customers that you are not trained to provide medical advice, and direct their questions to a licenced pharmacist.
  • Take your time in packing and labeling prescriptions, as even the tiniest mistake can result in grave consequences for a patient and legal consequences for the pharmacy.
  • Double check all of your work (if not triple check) to ensure accuracy.
  • Never stop learning more about your industry and improving your skills and education.

Become a Pharmacy Technician

Are you ready to step into a future career as a pharmacy technician? Get the education you need with CareerStep’s online training. Learn more about our pharmacy technician program and jumpstart your career today!

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One thought on “Giving Medical Advice As A Pharmacy Technician [What Can Pharmacy Techs Do]

  1. Larry Weaver says:

    Thanks for the tip to have a pharmacist review everything before finalizing your prescription. My dad just developed a rare medical condition and he is going to nee over the counter medications to help deal with it. I’ll make sure the pharmacist he works with finalizes everything before my dad starts receiving medication.

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