Pharmacist assistant positions are becoming increasingly important, as the workload of the average pharmacist is getting out of control and the numbers of qualified new pharmacists is not keeping up with demand. Pharmacists have always found it useful to offload some of the mundane and routine tasks to other personnel, but this need is increasing as they are having to deal with increasing numbers of cases and with increasingly complex problems. This is creating opportunities not only for qualified pharmacists, but also for those seeking to become assistants or technicians.
The vast majority of pharmacists work in one of two settings, either in a retail store or in a hospital, although there are pharmacists in the military and even in research and government. The traditional retail pharmacist is still the most common, and these are in greater demand than ever before. The aging population and the fact that more people are living to retirement age means that there are increasing numbers of people on long term prescriptions providing a regular income and regular work for pharmacists. Although much of the work is routine, there is an advisory capacity which these pharmacists need to satisfy, and it is here that their time is most needed.
In the past, it was always the pharmacist themselves who took on the advisory role, liaising with the patients to advise them how and when to take their medicines, and giving them general advice on how to manage their conditions. Now, that role is increasingly being taken on by the assistants or technicians. The pharmacist will still need to supervise the operation to make sure that the right advice is being given, but a good technician can provide most of the common sense advice patients are looking for. If there is a more serious problem, such as unexpected complications or side effects arising from treatment, the case can always be referred to the pharmacist.
The pharmacist assistant is also becoming increasingly important in the hospital setting, as there is also a lack of qualified pharmacists here. The hospital pharmacist has to deal with a wide variety of cases, from those confined to hospital for long periods of time and in need of the same drug treatments constantly, to those emergency situations which need to be treated by doctors but in which the pharmacist can still play a vital part. It is the routine aspects of the job which can be delegated to the technicians or assistants, and this is happening increasingly often.
An assistant or technician does not need the same high level of education that the pharmacist has to have to even break into the profession, but they do need to have at least completed high school. So much of what you need to know as a technician can be learned while you are working, and a good pharmacist will keep increasing your knowledge so that there are more tasks which can be passed on to you. A job as a technician or assistant can be useful as a stepping stone to a career as a pharmacist, but only if you are able to complete the four year university education.
Working as a pharmacist assistant will give you invaluable insight into how a pharmacy is run, and into the type of tasks you will need to perform if you want to progress in this career. It will also give you the possibility of putting together a work record which will look highly impressive to a potential employer. If you can do well in a technician job, and complete your university education at the same time, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of a successful career in pharmacy, starting from a base as a pharmacist assistant.