I have been working as a pharmacy technician for about three months. In that time, I have learned a lot about what it’s like on the other side of the counter. There are a lot of things that people don’t realize about what goes on in a pharmacy. While some pharmacy companies may handle things differently, it’s safe to assume that most operate with the same general rules. Here are some things that pharmacy technicians would like you to know.
1. We aren’t friends with your doctors.
We can’t fill a prescription unless the doctor sends us a prescription. Depending on how strong the meds are, the prescription may need extra info for legal purposes. As many different doctors and pharmacies as there are in some cities, we don’t exactly have them on speed dial. It takes time.
2. We aren’t friends with your insurance companies, either.
The same goes for insurance. As much as we would love to punch in some numbers and give you your medicine for free, we have to check everything to make sure it’s correct (and, you know, legal). We don’t want to do something that will mess up your insurance for all your other medicines. We’ll try our best to help you find the lowest price possible.
3. There are a lot of things that the technicians can’t actually do.
In the pharmacy that I work at, technicians cannot mix medicines, give patient consultations, recommend medications, fill narcotic prescriptions, or perform final verification on prescriptions. All of those things require the pharmacist (or sometimes a pharmacy intern). If there is only one pharmacist in the store, things may get a little slow.
4. The computers are the bosses.
We have to put in our IDs to do literally everything. If something goes wrong, our info is on everything we do, so we want to make sure we do it right. Also, since most things are electronic now, any federal regulations, company policies, or other rules we have to follow are automatically programmed into the computer system. Nine times out of ten, if we can’t do it for you, it can’t be done. We apologize.
5. It takes longer than you think to fill a prescription.
There are several steps involved in filling a prescription. Each step requires complete accuracy; sometimes it’s a life or death situation. We have to do this for every patient that has to have a prescription filled on a given day, which can sometimes be hundreds. Please allow us to give all of our patients the care and attention that you would like us to give you.
6. If you want to update your insurance information, please let us know first.
We can’t enter insurance information at the register. I’ve rung up patients before, and when I finally get everything done and it’s time to pay, they’ll hand me an insurance card. Then I have to refer them to the drop-off counter to put in their new information, and they get upset that we’re wasting their time. Not a pleasant experience.
7. If you’re at the drive-thru window, we can’t go shopping for you.
Some people will pick up their prescriptions and ask if we can go get them something from the store, like some cough drops or Band-Aids. As much as we would love to do that for you, we run the risk of holding up the line and slowing down everything in the pharmacy.
8. We can’t stay after hours.
This is another regulatory thing. The minute we close, it’s game over. We’re not just in a rush to get home, we literally cannot sell you anything else.
9. Sometimes we don’t have your medicine in stock.
If your medicine is uncommon, we may not have quite as much as you need as soon as you need it. We’ll order some more for you, but it may take a while. This is also true for high-demand medicine. Last month, it felt like all the Tamiflu was gone within minutes of being delivered.
10. We want to help you. We promise.
All of these rules and regulations aren’t because we want to swindle you or make you wait excessively long to get what you need. We want to make sure you get the correct amount of the correct medication at the correct price and take it correctly so that you can be as healthy as possible. Sometimes we aren’t able to tell people what they want to hear, but we try our best to make our patients’ lives better.