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Nurses Can Make Great Pharmacy Technicians

Just your average apothecary (pharmacist), feet firmly planted behind the pharmacy counter, whose mortar and pestle are hitched to a star.

Nursing to pharmacy

Nursing to pharmacy

Can a Nurse Work in a Pharmacy?

I have worked for nearly 20 years in retail pharmacy as a pharmacist. It's a great job, but the high-pressure working environment, frequent chaos, management pressure, and often irrational requests from patients are simply not everyone's cup of tea. Well-trained pharmacy technicians can make your day a lot easier, and they provide substantial comfort and care to concerned customers.

In my experience, nurses have an excellent background to transition into a pharmacy technician career. I have had the privilege of working with several nurses in this capacity, and it has been a real honor. Therefore, I wanted to write a brief article on the particular suitability of the pharmacy technician career for those looking for an alternative to their nursing jobs (or just extra income).

(And by the way, sadly, a pharmacy technician does not make nearly the same money as a nurse typically does, but if you are looking for something a bit less physically demanding, this could be perfect.)

Nurses Understand Illness

This may sound silly, but many people who have never been sick (often teenagers and young adults and otherwise healthy folks) have very little compassion and consideration for patients that are legitimately sick. Others are actually uncomfortable around illness. But nurses understand illness. Training and nursing experience provide an excellent background for caring for patients who show up in the pharmacy often feeling miserable. I have had customers break down and cry and have watched as some technicians just stood there speechless, not knowing what to do or say. It's not that they didn't care; they just didn't know what to do. Nurses know. They excel in this atmosphere.

Nurses Know Drugs

Let's face it; pharmacy is virtually all about the drugs. Yes, we care for patients, but it is a very specific and specialized care that focuses on their medication management. And nurses understand medication. They have studied the drugs, written the drugs, handled the drugs, talked about the drugs, seen the drugs, and dispensed the drugs. Prescription medications are like a whole different language: lisinopril, dipyridamole, Avapro, hydrochlorothiazide, etc. Nurses speak this language already. Sure, anyone can learn it (hey, I anything is possible!), but nurses definitely have an advantage.

They Know Common-Sense Care

Many of the questions and concerns raised in a retail pharmacy are about common first aid and routine care for coughs, colds, and other such ailments. Nurses make an awesome resource for retail pharmacies and their customers. I have personally witnessed some amazing care and sound advice being dispensed by nurses whom I have worked with in the pharmacy. Once familiarized with the layout and products of the OTC area, a nurse is like a fish in water and skillfully guides customers to competent cures.

They Can Handle Pressure

Most of the day in a retail pharmacy, however, is not spent casually discussing the color and consistency of our constipated customers most recent bowel movement. Thankfully! Most of the day is CRAZY busy, doing 18 things at once, while ensuring that the prescriptions are accurately filled and records are correctly documented. A pharmacy technician must:

  • Accurately interpret prescription orders
  • Answer phone calls from customers and physician offices and doctors
  • Input prescription data correctly, along with personal data and insurance information
  • Locate and correctly count out prescription orders
  • Mix reconstitutable suspensions when necessary
  • Retrieve prescription orders and ensure the right patient is getting the right prescription
  • Yep...and even run the cash register.

It gets crazy! But nurses know this, and can generally handle such situations with great skill and, most importantly, with accuracy and carefulness. Nurses, most at least, have probably been yelled at once or twice, and can keep from losing their cool. Customers are not always the friendliest creatures on earth.

Nurses Appreciate Confidentiality Concerns

Yep, nothing will ruin a day like an untrained technician who bluntly yells across three aisles, "Mr. Smith... your Viagra prescription is out of refills... can you wait a couple days??" Ugh. The pharmacist then prepares to put out the fire. Maybe that is a bit of exaggeration, but really, nurses understand that a person's medical profile is private and should not be the topic of break room chatter or public pronouncement.

Nurses Know Doctors

Nurses are not needlessly intimidated by phone calls from local physicians. Again, this is their milieu. They work well with other healthcare professionals and professionally handle themselves. For these and many other reasons, nurses make great pharmacy technicians.

Nothing I have written is intended to discourage non-nurses from pursuing a pharmacy technician career. I have worked with awesome technicians from many different non-medical backgrounds. But I have been especially impressed with how well the nurses I have worked with have done in this environment, and they seem to have enjoyed it too! So, if you are a nurse and are thinking about a career change, or just need a break from your current career, think about working as a pharmacy technician. We want you!

Further Resources

  • NPTA - National Pharmacy Technician Association
  • PTCB - Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
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This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


liz2055 on November 21, 2017:

I really appreciate this .

You really know and even make nurses feel appreciated for once. I am a nurse , very stressful job, i wish i had thought of changing to pharmacy tech many years ago instead of tolerating the stress in nursing , if there is no age limit, i will like to give it a go or any advise the quickest way to get into this area.

Zan988 on December 20, 2013:

Proud to say, I am a nurse working in drugstore as pharmacy assistant/ pharmacy technician and all my co workers are also a nurse. We are working not just to sell or dispense a medicine we also giving them a counseling regarding their illness and the proper intake of medicine, because some of them are not properly inform after their consultation or they forgot since we all know that most of doctors prescription are not readable for non medical professional. Base on my experience I am happy to serve them by giving their needs.

fucsia on December 13, 2010:

I am a nurse and I thank you for your advice and especially for the appreciation to a job very important and difficult

Jason Poquette (author) from Whitinsville, MA on September 03, 2010: are correct. The medical profession as a whole tends to be a little more resistant to fluctuations in the market than other sectors.

Michelle on September 03, 2010:

I have heard that this is one career that is booming during the recession, whereas public sectors workers are seeing job losses, it does make a good career option.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on November 20, 2008:

Makes perfect sense.. and maybe a great part time job for a retired nurse.

I have a friend who retired early after working for many years in the ER. She admitted it was too stressful.

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