Role of the pharmacy technician
Pharmacy technicians are members of the pharmacy team who, under the supervision of a pharmacist, are involved in preparing, dispensing and supplying medicines. They also provide, advice and information to help patients understand how to use their medicines safely and effectively.

Hospital pharmacy technicians

Hospital pharmacy technicians work as part of the pharmacy support team across a number of areas within the hospital and surrounding communities. They work alongside pharmacists and pharmacy assistants as well as with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals in the wider hospital team.

Hospital pharmacy technicians undertake a variety of roles including:

  • Dispensing medicines for patients on admission, during their stay and at discharge from hospital
  • Ordering medicines, stock control and preparing orders for hospital wards
  • Dispensing vaccines for GP surgeries and school vaccination services
  • Carrying out a clinical support role at ward-level or outpatient clinic by checking and recording medicines that patients are taking and also ensuring patients know how to take their medicines safely when they return home
  • Preparing patient specific medicines e.g. creams, ointments and mixtures or chemotherapy drugs and intravenous fluids
  • Performing the final accuracy check of prescriptions before supply to the patient (this requires further training and assessment).

As hospital pharmacy technicians gain more experience and competence they can specialise in their area of practice, train other colleagues or take on more senior management roles.

Community pharmacy technicians

Community pharmacy technicians work as part of the team in retail pharmacy businesses in cities, towns and villages.

In their immediate team they work with pharmacists, dispensary and medicine counter assistants. However, they also work with colleagues in GP practices, nursing homes and other healthcare professions.

Pharmacy technicians can play an integral role in the running of a community pharmacy by:

  • Preparing, assembling and issuing a wide range of prescribed medicines and other products
  • Providing information and advice to ensure patients know how to take their medicines safely
  • Maintaining patient medication records, ordering medicines and stock control
  • Performing the final accuracy check of prescriptions before supply to the patient (this requires further training and assessment)
  • Advising members of the public about over-the-counter medicines and management of common ailments
  • Delivering public health services e.g. advice on stopping smoking or adopting a healthier lifestyle

With professional development and experience, a community pharmacy technician can oversee the operational running of a dispensary or pharmacy and take on responsibility for the training and supervision of other pharmacy team members.

How do you become a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy technicians combine work and study over two years as student pharmacy technicians before qualifying.

In Northern Ireland you can apply and study to be a pharmacy technician by undertaking the Level 3 Diploma: principles and practice for pharmacy technicians, at the South Eastern Regional CollegeĀ (SERC)

Entry Requirements for SERC:
  • To be currently working in a pharmacy environment as a trainee pharmacy technician or have secured a placement as a trainee pharmacy technician, by the start of the course

  • 4 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and maths and science

  • Equivalent qualifications will be considered individually

  • An acceptable reference for good character and an acceptable self-declaration for health

Some employers offer alternative training routes which combine work and distance learning through education providers such as Buttercups and the NPA or their own accredited courses. A list of approved course providers can be found on the General Pharmaceutical Council website which will link to course details and the criteria for application.

You can find out more about the career pathways for pharmacy technicians in Northern Ireland from the following websites:

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