Pharmacy Technicians in Hospital Settings


by Bryan Wilson, CPhT

My life as a pharmacy technician started off as a person who wanted to change the world through science. But how does one achieve such a goal? I did not think long about it, but I felt pharmacy would be a good start. So, I took the didactic approach to become a pharmacy technician. I studied for a whole year (spring, summer, and fall semesters), and through that learning, I could experience both retail and hospital pharmacy work.

In no way was one field better than the other, but there were a few reasons why I chose the hospital route versus retail. Even though only 16% of pharmacy technicians are employed in the hospital environment. This may sound like a low number compared to the 50% who work in pharmacies and drug stores, but you can develop into a strong leader with that mere number.

The hospital pharmacy works with other hospital staff to compound and prepare prescriptions. This can operate as a back-end technician or directly with customers. This can include but is not limited to sterilizing equipment, education, and creating intravenous preparations. The hospital setting can satisfy most of your needs. When you work in a hospital setting that is affiliated with a university, you have the option to transfer to other roles.

When I started my career, I was a technician in the pediatrics department. This was a rotating shift, and you were a part of an on-call pool. Just in case someone on the third shift called out. This job consisted of a lot of walking. There were two technicians per shift—one for the intensive care units and one for the patients on the floor. When someone called out, the remaining technician would have to double down and cover both areas with little help from the pharmacists. This environment would start with medication delivery, individual dose batches, mixed-in stat preps, and bulk bottle rest. That was just the inside experience; you also had a pager so the nurse could page you on “missing” medications or messages to give you a heads up on a new order that is about to be prescribed.

Now I work a Monday through Friday, with no holiday schedule. This role does not include talking with nurses, understanding prescription handwriting, or doing other people’s work who called out. All I handle is my scheduled work and maintaining expected job duties. I do less walking and standing, but now I am more closed off to the rest of the hospital.

That is my point; hospital technicians are not centralized in one building or room. We have opportunities that allow us to move around and climb the ladder. If we do not like inpatient work (pediatrics) anymore, we can move to an outpatient or specialized side, such as investigational drug or cancer infusion services. Even if you would like to have a chance to experience retail, you can work in a hospital retail pharmacy. The hospital's hours may be more irregular, but you have options.