Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

Common Pharmacy Technician Problems

JUNE 10, 2015
Being a pharmacy tech is not for the faint of heart. Even though you are helping patients on a daily basis, there are many things that can be frustrating—even for the calmest, coolest, and most collected technician out there.

On the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Facebook page, I asked what common problems techs are facing, and the post received more than 100 comments.

Here are 8 pet peeves pharmacy techs face on a daily basis:

1. When a patient says, “WebMD/Dr. Oz/The Internet says…”
The Internet has done wonders when it comes to helping patients become active participants in their health care. When a patient plays the “I saw on Dr. Oz…” card at the counter, however, it can be hard to find a good response that doesn't come off as rude. I still haven’t found one that won’t get me into trouble.

2. When patients assume that pharmacy employees know what medications they’re taking.
When a patient shows up at the counter asking for a refill, the first question a tech will ask is, “Which medication would you like refilled?” When the patient responds, “All of them,” it can be hard to stifle a groan.

Techs have to go through a sometimes-exhaustive list of medications to find out if the patient is still taking each one. Usually, they are only taking one or 2 prescriptions of the 10 on file.

3. When you need 30 pills, have exactly 30 in stock, and then drop one on the floor. 
You know a bunch of patients waiting for their prescriptions saw you drop it, so you can’t just sneak it back into the bottle.
 
The whole time you're going through the motions of disposing the pill properly, you're dreading the conversation you have to have with the patient to explain that the prescription won’t be ready for a few more days because you have to order more.
 
4. When patients ask you not to run a prescription through their insurance…
...because they're attempting to get their second OxyContin prescription filled that day. Although there may be some very legitimate reasons not to run a prescription through insurance, it’s difficult not to be suspicious of drug-seeking behavior whenever a patient makes this request.

5. When patients don’t let you get a word in.
It’s very difficult to practice good customer service when a patient won't stop talking for the 2 seconds it takes to ask for his or her name and date of birth. After all, you can’t look anything up until you have that information.
 
Do you interrupt and risk making the customer angry? Do you wait it out and potentially waste precious minutes in your very busy day? The good news is that if you wait long enough, the patient will eventually come up for air.

6. When someone forgets to mark open bottles.
This can not only cause an inventory nightmare, but also undue frustration for patients and pharmacy staff alike. Three open bottles with fewer than a full month’s worth of pills between them is sure to make any tech—and customers, when you tell them that you have to order more—see red.

7. When patients have trouble using the credit/debit card machine.
Some patients seriously think the machine is voice activated. When the screen reads, “Would you like to donate $1 to our charity of the month?” and the patient verbally responds, “No,” the tech then says, “You have to hit the button.”

Other patients can’t seem to avoid hitting the “clear” button or otherwise canceling their transaction, and then get mad when you ask them to swipe their card again.

8. When patients have trouble using the automated phone system. 
It can be maddening when patients leave messages on the doctor’s line or fail to leave their name on the voicemail. Every now and then, though, you will get a hilarious gem of a voicemail that really makes your week. As an added bonus, you can just go ahead and laugh out loud because the patient is not standing right in front of you.

In closing, I’d like to salute the pharmacy techs who support pharmacists, provide quality care to patients, and help keep the pharmacy running smoothly. Even if patients don’t always express their gratitude, there are loads of pharmacists out there who appreciate everything you do.


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