Is Pharmacy Technician Career Highly Stressful?

People often wonder if being a pharmacy technician is stressful. The simple answer is “yes”. Any job can be stressful when a person is subjected to persistent tension or strain. Pharmacy technicians worry (or should worry) whether or not they have dispensed the wrong medication, if they made a mistake in the patient’s directions, and if the pharmacist caught the mistake. Or, what if he or she did not? Usually, the more demanding the environment, the more stress a person will experience. Stress in the pharmacy depends on a variety of factors: setting, staffing, volume, and management.

Setting

The setting will affect the level of stress. Based on what I have observed, technicians in the retail setting tend to be more on edge because they deal with the general public. Another stressor in the retail setting is insurance billing as 80% of the time, a technician will probably be on the phone with an insurance company representative. In the hospital setting, however, various other stresses play into the equation. For example, if the hospital’s census increases, the pharmacy workload goes up as well. Furthermore, when the workload goes up, it goes up. Emergencies are emergencies; there is only one wait time – “I needed it 10 minutes ago”. However, one perk of the hospital environment is that technicians usually do not have to deal with insurance companies. They still deal with different types of customers: doctors and nurses.

Staffing

Staffing also influences the stress level. The less staffed a pharmacy is, the more stressful it becomes as individuals have to take on more responsibilities. This is true regardless of the setting. Furthermore, if individuals do not function as a team, there can be increased tension between individuals. When there is stress in the pharmacy, you better believe that everyone involved, including the patients, feel the tension.

Volume

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It is no surprise that the higher the volume of prescriptions, the higher the stress level. The more involved the prescription, the more time it will take (i.e., compounding a prescription versus one available by a manufacturer).

Management

Management can make or break a pharmacy. Management has one big job: ensure a smooth operation of the pharmacy on all levels, including but not limited to staff satisfaction and availability of needed resources. Many times, the staff is stressed because resources are not available or they feel like they are being taken advantage of and or are not appreciated. At the end of the day, no staff equals no pharmacy. Management needs to be mindful that if the staff is happy, the customers will be happy. If the customers are happy, the pharmacy is successful.

Many factors play a role in the stress of a pharmacy technician. Ultimately, a person chooses to stay with his or her career based on what rewards that career provides. Being a pharmacy technician is one of the most rewarding careers out there. In order for you to be successful in this career area, you must live, breathe, and bleed pharmacy. It must occupy your mind. Then, all the stress that you go through will be totally worth it.

Elina works full-time at Southeast Community College, running an ASHP-accredited pharmacy technician program, and works part-time for the Arts and Sciences division.

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