October 11, 2005
A Q&A session with Cynthia Arroyo, a pharmacy technician, who works at Scripps Hospital in Encinitas, CA. Cynthia has been in the field for a year and a half.

Q: Describe your average daily routine. What types of tasks are you expected to complete as part of your job?

A: When I arrive in the morning I help the pharmacist catch up with the orders that were scanned between 12 AM- 7 AM. Then if there are any IV’s to be made before the IV tech arrives, I’ll mix them or fill any labels that were printed out. While I’m delivering the medications, my coworker starts with the Pyxis refill. In the morning we refill the main floors like ICU, 2N, NICU, ED, etc.

As we are doing all of this, we are also responsible for answering the phone. The pharmacist also answers phones and enters the orders that are being scanned or that need to be verified.

After we fill the buckets with the medications that are low in amounts, the pharmacist checks them off and one of us leaves to fill the Pyxis. The other tech will stay to answer phones, enter orders, or if it’s slow, fill trays and help the IV tech.

At 12:00 PM, one of us goes to lunch while the other one stays to help the pharmacist. Then we switch again. At around this time, an afternoon pharmacist will arrive and help with narcotics that are low in amounts around the whole hospital. As we are waiting to take out the narcotics, we are doing different things, like helping people at the window, refilling labels, checking for outdates, and many other tasks. After the pharmacist is done refilling the narcotics, we deliver them about 2:30. By this time, one of the afternoon pharmacy techs has arrived and will deliver some of the narcs. Then when we return it’s about to go home.

Q: What do you like the most about being a pharmacy technician?

A: The thing that I like the most about my job is the fact that as I am filling the medications, I learn about different medications and what they do and what they are good for. I gain knowledge on what to take for this and for that. Another thing that I like about my job is that I have chance to meet different people from visitors to doctors, to the CEO.

Q: What do you dislike, if anything, about being a pharmacy technician?

A: I really enjoy my job, the job itself, I like everything about it, but the people I work with, well that is something else.

Q: What is your work environment like?

A: In the mornings, it can be pretty stressful and busy, especially when pharmacists get a uncommon order that they need to investigate the dose, the route, the strength, etc. And when the pharmacist falls behind, we start getting a lot of phone calls that they need this and that, and we can’t really do anything because it needs to be verified or checked by the pharmacist. Usually the other pharmacist will jump in and help.

Q: What is your work schedule like?

A: I’m supposed to be part time but since we are short one tech, I work full time, 40 hours per week. I usually work from 7:00 AM – 3:30 PM, or I even work in the afternoon, from 2:30 PM – 11:00 PM or 3:00 PM – midnight. I gain 5-8 hours (I’m not sure) of vacation time every 2 weeks.

Q: Where did you get the training necessary for your job?

A: I attended the pharmacy technician program at the American Institute of Health Sciences. The program was part-time and lasted 10 months, plus an internship of 330 hours. I learned about compounding, order entering, presentations, where look for information (all the resources that pharmacists use), mechanism of drugs, and much more. I would recommend the program because it’s challenging but very interesting because you don’t only learn about medicine but about communications skills, writing skills and even math skills.

Q: Would you recommend your job as a pharmacy technician to another person?

A: Yes I would, because, yes it can be very busy, but I see it more like time passes by faster and when you think about it it’s time to go home. Also because all the experiences and knowledge you gain by working at a pharmacy can be applied to your personal life, like you know what the best thing you can give to a family member when they have a cough. Another reason is that you have all the resources to look up when you are in doubt in something related to health. And then you have the pharmacist that you can ask too.

Q: What is the next step in your career?

A: Right now I’m working on my BS in Biology and then I’m going to apply to Pharmacy School. I am planning to work as a pharmacy tech while I’m attending my school.

View a list of schools in California offering pharmacy technician programs.