Many people hear “pharmacy” and automatically think that the career area is not for them because they did not do well in math or do not like math. Do not get me wrong…the pharmacy profession requires you to employ basic principles of math, but previous success in the subject does not necessarily mean you will be a good technician. Conversely, just because you did not do well in math does not mean that you will not be a good technician.
As a program director and advisor, this is probably the biggest fear that students have when they talk to me about whether or not pharmacy technician training is for them. Here are a few things that you need to think about and address:
- Fear of math is just like any other fear. People’s mental block is the biggest deterrent for them. I have had students come into my program absolutely terrified about math, but as time went on, they realized that if they spent time on the subject, they were able to understand it. One fearful student that I have had in the past now works as an IV technician at a hospital and loves it.
- Application is key. Math is a subject that has to be used. It is like the saying goes, “You use it or lose it.” You have to use it daily in order for it to become second nature. Otherwise, you will forget it. The good news is that because every day in pharmacy involves some kind of math, you are almost always guaranteed to use math in some way, shape, or form, which increases the likelihood that you will retain that information.
- The nice thing about pharmacy work is you are never expected to know everything. Most technicians carry a notebook around with them where they write formulas, conversion factors, insurance processing codes, and other miscellaneous information. In fact, I always look for those technicians who carry around a notebook because those are the technicians, in my opinion, who are serious about this profession. Of course, refer to point 2 above; the more you use the information, the less likely you will be to have to look it up. However, for the first few months, do not be ashamed to write things down.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions. If you are not sure how to calculate a particular quantity, find an individual who has been working as a technician for at least a year or so to show you how he or she calculates that quantity. If his or her explanation does not make sense, ask someone else. Oftentimes, it is finding the right person to explain it to you that makes all the difference. It is not that you cannot do it. It is just you have not found the right person to explain it to you.
So, at the end of the day, do not equate your success in the pharmacy technician career with how much you like or do not like math. The fear of math is almost natural as we learn math all throughout our high school and college careers but really do not use it unless we are in careers that require us to use it.