Mohammad Sajjad | Staff Columnist
As I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a post from a local supermarket chain advertising for several open Pharmacy Technician positions. Having worked in a pharmacy and understanding how busy it can be, I was not surprised to see that they needed help.
What triggered me, however, was how the company enthusiastically boasted a starting salary of $13 per hour for the position. While this may not seem bad initially, it is abysmal once you know how much knowledge is required for the position and the stress technicians endure on a daily basis.
Pharmacy technicians, specifically those that work in retail settings, deserve higher starting pay. Not only will this accurately reflect the work they do, but it may reduce the high turnover rate that is often seen with technicians.
When you pick up a prescription at your local pharmacy, you’re more than likely to interact with a pharmacy technician. They are the ones that will greet you at checkout, find your medication, and ring you out. While this interaction may leave you thinking they are a glorified cashier, this could not be further from the truth.
Patients fail to realize that there is much more to preparing a prescription than putting pills in a bottle and slapping a label on it. This is only a fraction of the process, which technicians are responsible for leading.
When the pharmacy receives a prescription, technicians are responsible for transcribing information from it, whether it’s handwritten or electronic, into the computer system. In order to do this, technicians must be able to recall generic and brand name medications, recognize prescription abbreviations, otherwise known as sig codes, and in the case of a handwritten prescription, decipher nearly illegible physician handwriting.
Another responsibility that can fall on technicians is dealing with insurance. If someone is a new patient at the pharmacy, technicians are responsible for gathering their insurance information and entering it in the system so they can bill their insurance company. This requires being able to read an insurance card and understanding how transactions work between pharmacies and insurance companies.
Oftentimes, claims to insurance companies are rejected and it’s up to technicians to resolve these. In some cases, a patient’s insurance won’t cover a particular medication and it falls on the technician to explain this to them. Understandably, patients get upset, but they often misdirect their anger towards technicians and pharmacy staff because we’re not giving them the medication they need.
With COVID-19, the number of responsibilities that fall upon technicians has only increased. With some pharmacies offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing, pharmacy technicians are responsible for administering these tests and explaining to patients how to complete them. In addition, with vaccine rollout on the rise, pharmacies are only getting busier as more people rush to get immunized.
As you can see, being a pharmacy technician requires a vast amount of knowledge; yet, many technicians get paid just as much as gas station employees. Because being a technician requires a large skillset, the compensation should reflect this.
Unfortunately, technician turnover is common, with pharmacies regularly having to train new employees. One way to retain technicians, especially high-caliber ones, is to increase their pay. While there will always be stress associated with the job, technicians will have peace of mind knowing they are being compensated fairly and able to handle an increasing cost of living.
While pharmacists may lead the pharmacy, pharmacy technicians are their backbone. It’s about time that technicians get paid what they deserve. While it may cost more for companies initially, it’s an investment that will surely pay off in the long run.