Five Mistakes New Pharmacy Technicians Should Avoid

  • Pharmacy Technician
  • November 28, 2023
  • 447 views
  • 6 min read
Five Mistakes New Pharmacy Technicians Should Avoid

Are you a future pharmacy technician in training? Or someone interested in entering the pharmacy field but not sure if it will be an excellent fit for you? Rest assured, the pharmacy industry is an exciting one, with a wide variety of career pathways available to students (discussed in our previous posts). We are sure one of these pathways will likely be a good fit for you!

However, as you begin your career, you must watch out for these common mistakes. If you master the five most essential skills for a new pharmacy technician (see our previous post) and avoid these five common pitfalls, you are likely to hit the ground running in your new career!

Mistake #1 – Mislabeling Medications

Imagine you dispense the wrong medication to a patient due to a labeling mixup. This “tiny error” can have significant consequences on the health and well-being of your patient. Your first crucial lesson is always to double and triple-check your labels. Precision is critical in the pharmacy world, as seemingly small mistakes are often significant.

Whenever you handle medication, especially when you transfer that medication into a container, always make sure you are double-checking the name, dosage, and any special instructions. This will ensure you are taking an appropriate pause and making sure the label matches the prescription perfectly.

Don’t rush this Step. this only takes a few extra seconds, and it can make a world of difference. Build it into your everyday workflow, and you will significantly minimize the risk of errors.

Mistake #2 – Not Paying Attention to Prescription Details

It’s easy to go on autopilot when you do similar tasks multiple times daily. We’ve all been there. Driving somewhere and suddenly you are halfway to work or your house when planning to go somewhere else. This happens to me all the time.

The same sort of thing can happen in a pharmacy. Suppose you are filling certain common prescriptions frequently. In that case, it can be easy for your brain to “fill in the details “when looking at a prescription rather than actually reading the prescription completely. However, skipping over those details is not in your or the patient’s best interest

Every word on the prescription is valuable. Take it seriously, and follow it to the letter. This will ensure that you are providing the medication as the provider recommends. If something is unclear or seems unusual, reach out to the prescriber for clarification. The healthcare provider may have made a mistake, or one of their staff may have made a mistake writing down the prescription, so pharmacy technicians need to double-check to ensure the risk of medication errors is minimized.

One common source of errors is the use of prescription abbreviations and medical jargon. While such abbreviations and jargon are supposed to be “common knowledge,” oftentimes, there can be a lack of clarity due to abbreviations that mean similar things or people training under different systems. Don’t hesitate to ask a senior technician or a pharmacist for help deciphering a prescription you are filling.

Don’t forget your most important responsibility is maintaining accuracy and attention to detail. A simple misinterpretation can lead to a serious error, and a few seconds of additional effort can help prevent a lot of heartache.

Mistake #3. Failing to Communicate

Whenever you work on a team with others, it’s imperative to communicate effectively with those around you. It’s even more critical when you are new to an industry or when you’re industry is very technical in nature, such as in a pharmacy.

Communication is critical in the pharmacy world because the impact of mistakes that occur if someone is unsure about a task, a medication, or a procedure could be significant. Don’t shy away from asking questions, clarifying doubts, or seeking guidance from either your senior technicians or the pharmacists themselves.

If you make sure that you are clear on instructions and the details of any prescriptions that you work on, you can ensure patient safety while growing professionally. The takeaway is that it’s always better to ask and ensure you’re on the right track rather than risk mistakes due to a lack of understanding.

Mistake 4 – Being Disorganized

A typical pharmacy stocks hundreds or thousands of medications in its facility. As you can imagine, if they do not have a well-maintained organizational system, total chaos will ensue.

Good organization extends beyond the overall pharmacy’s systems and includes the workspaces of pharmacy technicians. If your workspace is messy, you are more likely to get confused and make a mistake about what medication you are working with. Many medications can look alike and, therefore, be easily mixed up if your workspace is not tidy.

Your pharmacy will typically already have a system for storing medications and supplies. However, it’s important you do your part and make sure that you have labeled everything clearly and logically.

Create a routine for cleaning and organizing your workspace daily so that it becomes part of your regular process. This will ensure you can work more efficiently, find what you need, and minimize the risk of costly errors.

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Mistake 5 – Assuming Your Learning Stops When You Are Done With School

Becoming a great pharmacy technician takes much longer than the 9 to 10 months of a typical training program. It certainly isn’t a “learn it once and you’re done” kind of job. You need to be prepared to embark on a journey of lifelong learning.

The pharmaceutical industry is always evolving and coming out with new drugs. What used to be popular sometimes becomes outdated, and a new medication with new dosing, regiments, etc., is popular instead. Pharmacy technicians are expected to stay up to speed with changes in the industry.

Since knowledge is the key to your success, sign up for newsletters, join online forums related to the pharmacy industry, or pursue additional advanced education and certifications. The more you know, the more confident you will be in your role.

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Conclusion

While these may seem like simple mistakes that are easily avoidable, too often, people lose focus and develop bad habits. If you are mindful of these mistakes, though, you will undoubtedly be able to avoid them and have a wonderful career as a pharmacy technician.

Author avatar
Author
Samantha Huntsman, M.S., CPhT
Program Chair M.S. University of Illinois at Chicago