The Challenges of Working in Retail Pharmacy


by Whitney Jo Hummel, CPhT-Adv, CSPT, LPN

Looking at Retail Pharmacy from a Business Standpoint:

            A typical day in retail pharmacy sometimes feels like you require eight arms like an octopus to keep up with the workload. Technicians constantly have to multitask and transition from one assignment to the next while having to remember the tasks that need to be completed for each patient. They are expected to do their jobs correctly while attending to multiple patients with different personality types.

In most retail environments, the pace is fast and is driven by the amount of money you can profit per day by the amount of work you put in. If you look at this from a business perspective, you want the best technicians and pharmacists placed in the most productive stores to maximize profit.

What is the formula for success?

The formula is not always precise, but I have followed a standard equation: quick and efficient customer service skills, performing my job quickly under pressure, and being adaptable to the pharmacy needs using my strengths. Thinking about retail pharmacy as a business model allows you to see the entire picture of how the pharmacy functions and why other team members may act and respond in a certain way.

Even though we serve patients and their needs, we must also understand that a business is operating, and things must run on a tight schedule.

Personal relationships with Patients and Team Members:

          In this environment, technicians will encounter many different types of people, and they will have to make good judgment calls of how to act and talk with each patient and pharmacy team member. They will have to assess each patient differently, and depending upon the judgment call, they will also dictate the proper response and behavior. Developing good assessing and judgment skills will make technicians understand their limitations of what they can handle at that time. Grabbing another experienced pharmacy technician or pharmacist to handle the situation will allow technicians to learn and grow from that experience.

Even if a pharmacy is chaotic and a technician does not want to ask for assistance, they should still go this route to learn from the experience. Gaining knowledge from experienced coworkers will be invaluable when handling these situations. The best way to improve these skills is to learn from someone with experience. It takes time and repetition to know how to handle different situations.  Grasping the concept of personal relationships will allow other parts of their jobs to flow.

Training on the Job

          Training on the job in a retail environment is not always the easiest at times due to its fast-paced environment. Newer technicians should not go in with the expectations that they will be conducting technician duties solely from the get-go. Most companies have a training manual for their pharmacy technicians, and they should have a copy to read and refer to even though they are not learning all these duties immediately. Preparing ahead sets them up for success.

Also, from a business aspect, they were hired because a store needs more help.  In the beginning stages of starting as a new technician, becoming more familiar with patients' pharmacy team members is recommended while building customer service skills.

After those skills become familiar and can be enacted naturally when needed, they should try to learn and understand the inner workings of the pharmacy by transitioning slowly to learning new duties while simultaneously helping the department needs. If the store is too busy to learn new skill sets, there should be a meeting with the pharmacy manager about these concerns to see if there are ways to learn new skills or work at a slower-paced store, so there are opportunities to learn new skills.

There are always ways to communicate concerns or issues if they are well thought out and introduced in the proper settings without distractions.


What to take away from the article

  1. While working in a retail pharmacy, always have the business aspect in mind while performing technician duties.
  2. Understanding that all patients and team members are different and knowing how to judge and assess situations appropriately.
  3. Training on the job will never be easy in a fast-paced environment, but there are ways to handle learning.