Hospital Pharmacy Technician – An Alternative to Retail

Most of the questions I get revolve around working in retail pharmacy. But, another good choice may be to become a hospital pharmacy technician.
I’ll give you an idea of what you can expect if you decide to go the hospital route – including both the advantages and disadvantages (in my experience).

Advantages of Becoming a Hospital Pharmacy Technician

(1) Deal Less With the Public

I know. I know. When I say something like that it makes me come off like someone who just doesn’t like people. I have to admit — there are some of my patients who I don’t like to deal with. But, when I say that dealing with the public less is an advantage it’s because after years and years of doing it, you can get burnt out.

Granted, not every pharmacist or technician feels that way. But, on the same token, too few also admit that they harbor those feelings for fear of sounding like ‘bad’ people.

I’m not afraid to admit that. If anyone comes and tells you with a straight face that working with the public is all peaches and cream than they either have never worked with the public or are lying to you.

Notice too, that I said being a hospital tech means working with the public less. Not that you won’t be working with them at all. That’s an important distinction.

(2) Less Hectic

In most retail environments it’s an absolute zoo all day. Hundreds of people dropping off prescriptions at the counter. A constantly ringing phone. Upset patients at the counter. Insurance problems and the other litany of problems retail can entail.

In the hospital you tend to have ‘specified’ duties. For example, you may be expected to fill med carts in the AM and then do IV’s in the afternoon. While your job will certainly have problems they tend to be less immediate than what is seen in retail.

Of course, this is where it comes in handy knowing what kind of person you are. Your talents, abilities and aptitudes all come into play and some technicians absolutely thrive in a more intense, fast-paced environment like retail. Others like the interaction with the public.

Whatever the case, what may be an advantage to one person is a disadvantage to another. So it helps to know what you enjoy first.

(3) Utilize Your Skills (More)

By saying something like this it could be misconstrued to say that as a retail pharmacy technician you don’t use your skills. That’s not true. You do use your skills but I feel comfortable saying that in the hospital setting you stay in touch with a wider array of skills. In retail, it’s easier to get ‘pigeon holed’ into just doing a very limited set of tasks each day.

As a hospital pharmacy technician you are generally doing intravenous drug preparation, dealing with inpatient as well as outpatient settings. Hence your exposure to various drugs is broader. Also, most hospitals have ambulatory units, intensive care, neonatal units, transitional care units and the like. It’s a really varied setting that allows you, in my opinion, to keep up and use more of the skills you developed.

(4) Generally Better Coverage

Again, maybe some retail pharmacies are different. But in my experience most retail technicians struggle with having coverage for vacations or sick time because they just don’t have enough technicians. This is also one of the reasons why retail generally pays more (see below).

Most hospitals I’ve worked at or been around seem to have plenty of staff. While that may not seem like a huge deal up front when it comes time for you to take a vacation or miss a day for some reason it’s a big deal for you and your coworkers and boss.

I’ve been on the other side of the fence where you depend on the limited number of technicians you might have and if one doesn’t show up it really puts everyone else in a bind. But, in the hospital setting the whole design allows for more leeway in this area.

Again, maybe this is just my experience. But I have talked to other pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who agree with what I’ve said here.

(5) More Variety

I kine of eluded to this above with your skill set. But, in a hospital you really do have the opportunity to expose yourself to more learning and working opportunities.

For example, there are often anti-coagulation clinics, intensive care, infectious disease, physician rounding and the like. You may not be able to work them all right away but if you show that you are willing to put in the effort and work hard the opportunities for advancement and to work in different areas will eventually come your way.

Disadvantages of a Hospital Pharmacy Technician

(1) Schedule

While this isn’t as big of a disadvantage as it use to be, with the advent of 24-hour drive thru retail pharmacies. Hospital technicians generally have less desirable schedules.

For example; weekends, early morning, late night and evening midnight shifts can and do happen. Also, because there is generally more staff at a hospital you’ll likely start out with the most undesirable shift.

(2) “Clicky”

This is just my experience but because of the usually large number of staff in a mid to large-size hospital – “clicks” are often formed. While this may be something that is inevitable – it is also something that is noticed and shunned by other staff members.

My advice – try to avoid falling into one at all costs. Go to work. Do your job. Try your best to get along with your coworkers. And, from my experience, that is easier to do when you don’t have any alliances one way or the other.

(3) Less Pay (generally)

I say generally, because it won’t always be the case. But, in nine out of ten cases you’ll find that your starting salary is likely lower at a hospital. However, room for advancement to higher pay is generally better.

But, couple the lower pay with usually wider ranging opportunities and less burnout and working in a hospital may suit you better than working in retail.

Like anything, becoming a hospital pharmacy technician has both its good and bad points. In my experience, the good points outweigh the bad points. But you have to also look at your own personal wants, needs, talents and desires before you make the decision.

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