Frequently Asked Questions About Pharmacy Assistants

The healthcare industry is one of the rare industries that has both a low unemployment rate and tends to be immune from economic fluctuations. In British Columbia, the healthcare industry is also actually one of the province’s largest employers, according to WorkBC. Even though a thriving industry like this one is rare, many still want to pursue careers in this field and often successfully do so because of the low unemployment rate.

The field of pharmacy is one of the booming branches under the healthcare industry. In the pharmacy field, you can become a Pharmacy Assistant, Pharmacy Technician, Pharmacist, or any other similar role.

Friendly female pharmacist hands over a plastic sachet with medicine

Below, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about becoming a Pharmacy Assistant including some of the main responsibilities, how you can become one, where you could work, and much more. 

What Is a Pharmacy Assistant?

Pharmacy assistants are professionals who provide support and assistance to licensed Pharmacists with drug dispensing. In their support to the practicing Pharmacist, Pharmacy Assistants provide medication and other healthcare products to clients by measuring, compounding, packaging, and distributing the medication.

As Pharmacy Assistants work under the general supervision of the Pharmacist, Pharmacy Technician Supervisor, or Coordinator of Pharmacy Services, they help refer questions from clients about the prescriptions, drug information, or health-related matters to their supervisor.

As this role deals with other people’s lives on the line, Pharmacy Assistants need to be accurate and efficient in all their work to ensure that the safety of their clients is not compromised. Oftentimes, Pharmacy Assistants will also need to be able to stand and be on their feet for the majority of their shift – sometimes for 8 to 10 hours at a time.

Pharmacy Assistants are also considered to be a high opportunity occupation, according to WorkBC. This means that the role is expected to see a higher demand and offer higher pay compared to other occupations. Learn more about high opportunity occupations here.

What Does a Pharmacy Assistant Do? What Are Their Responsibilities?

In their role, Pharmacy Assistants work a number of both medical and administrative responsibilities, in addition to preparing the prescribed medication. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Counting tablets and labelling bottles
  • Answering phones and operating the cash registrar
  • Stocking shelves, and placing and receiving orders for stock to maintain the inventory
  • Collecting and entering client’s information and prescriptions into the computer systems
  • Assessing prescriptions for completeness
  • Participating in health promotion
  • Compounding non-sterile pharmaceutical products
  • Maintaining prescription and inventory record-keeping systems
  • Ensuring proper drug storage and security
  • Providing patients with non-drug product information
  • Preparing and settling third-party insurance claims and records

Where Do Pharmacy Assistants Work?

portrait of a female pharmacist at pharmacy

Pharmacy Assistants can work in a variety of organizations, some may even work at one of BC’s health authorities. However, Pharmacy Assistants are most commonly found working in community pharmacies, hospitals, or medical centre pharmacies. In some cases, Pharmacy Assistants may work at health insurance companies, third-party billing centres, pharmaceutical companies, drug wholesalers, or pharmacy supply companies.  

In large pharmacies and health systems, Pharmacy Assistants with significant training, experience, and certification may be promoted to supervisory positions, where they can mentor and train Pharmacy Assistants with less experience. Some other Pharmacy Assistants may also advance into specialty positions such as Chemotherapy Assistants and Nuclear Pharmacy Assistants.

How Do I Become a Pharmacy Assistant?

To become a Pharmacy Assistant, you first need to complete a high school diploma.

Most employers want to hire Pharmacy Assistants who are already familiar with the field, and have some industry knowledge and experience. One of the best ways you can gain knowledge and experience is by taking a Pharmacy Assistant program. Taking a Pharmacy Assistant program will prepare you for the field, equip you with the skills you need, and give you a strong advantage in the hiring process. 

Sprott Shaw’s Pharmacy Assistant Program

At Sprott Shaw, our Pharmacy Assistant program is 33 weeks long and covers administrative and medical topics like bookkeeping, accounting, customer service, pharmacology, aseptic techniques, and much more.

In the program, students will learn anatomy and physiology as it relates to the body systems as well as learn how to associate pathological conditions with the body systems. Students will also understand and be able to carry out aseptic techniques including cytotoxic drugs, antiseptics, disinfectants, and more.

Throughout the program, students will have the opportunity to learn in a hands-on environment in the pharmacy lab for subjects like pharmacy, aseptic techniques, and retail applications.

This program is available with a practicum placement for students who are interested in gaining relevant, hands-on work experience before graduation.

You can learn more about other programs and career paths from our Frequently Asked Questions segment here.

To learn more and find out how you can start your journey towards becoming a Pharmacy Assistant, contact one of our advisors below!

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