North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 15, 2011

Staff is key to success

By Steve Mullenix
The North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — In general, a pharmacy is a highly regulated business which requires a very accurate and detailed recordkeeping system. Can you imagine having to keep up with tens of thousands of different pieces of paper, and being required to organize them in a way that you could find any single one at a moment’s notice? 

That is what’s required of a pharmacy with regard to their prescription files. Add to that the ability to provide the proof of purchase of several thousand items, to know when you purchased them, who you sold them to, and on what date for the last five years of the business operation. The aid of computers makes this task manageable, but there must be trained personnel to operate the computer systems. The clerk, pharmacy technician and pharmacist all make this happen. 

Pharmacy clerks perform administrative functions such as answering phones, stocking shelves, and operating cash registers. They assist customers in locating “over the counter” products. They help vacuum and dust. They assist in ordering supplies.   

Pharmacy technicians  help licensed pharmacists prepare prescription medications, provide customer service, and perform administrative duties within a pharmacy setting. Pharmacy technicians who work in retail or mail-order pharmacies have various responsibilities, depending on state rules and regulations.

Technicians receive written prescription requests from patients. They also may receive prescriptions sent electronically from doctors’ offices, and in some states they are permitted to process requests by phone. They must verify that the information on the prescription is complete and accurate. To prepare the prescription, technicians retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication. Then they prepare the prescription labels, select the type of container, and affix the prescription and auxiliary labels to the container.

Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drugstore, or in a healthcare facility, such as a hospital. They check for medication side effects, dispense medications, counsel patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and advise physicians about medication therapy. They also advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, and stress management, and provide information on products, such as durable medical equipment or home healthcare supplies.

In addition, they often complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. Those who own or manage community pharmacies may sell non-health-related merchandise, hire and supervise personnel, and oversee the general operation of the pharmacy. Some community pharmacists provide specialized services to help patients with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure. Some of them are trained to administer vaccinations.  Some may compound, or mix, ingredients to form medications. 

Pharmacists in healthcare facilities dispense medications and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They may make sterile solutions to be administered intravenously. They also plan, monitor, and evaluate drug programs or regimens. They may counsel hospitalized patients on the use of drugs before the patients are discharged. 

Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy, and psychiatric pharmacy (the use of drugs to treat mental disorders). 

There are a variety of activities in which a pharmacist may be involved. Pharmacists frequently oversee pharmacy students serving as interns. Some pharmacists are involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers, developing new drugs and testing their effects. Others work in marketing or sales, providing clients with expertise on the use, effectiveness, and possible side effects of drugs.   

As you can see, when you are waiting at the pharmacy there is a lot more involved in your prescription preparation than just pouring pills into a bottle. Every pharmacist and pharmacy employee strive to make sure that each and every prescription is filled accurately, and does not have any potential damaging effect or interaction with other drugs before it gets out the door. I don’t think you would expect or accept less for you or your family when it comes to your health.