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Behind the Scenes: Pharmacy Edition

Edited by Lauren Dayes

After a patient sees their doctor, goes to a lab for tests, and maybe gets a referral or two, they head to the pharmacy as the last point of contact before managing conditions independently. As a result, it is an essential aspect of pharmacies to be on the lookout for any errors or overlooked details to ensure that patients are well-informed about their conditions and medications. Pharmacies also tend to see many more patients than any other health care environment – some pharmacies see upwards of 600+ patients with unique medications daily. It is a common misconception that all pharmacies need to do is “put a label on it” or “put pills in a bottle.” On the contrary, the process of dispensing a prescription consists of many intricate steps to ensure patient safety and ensure that medications are safe, indicated, and effective. This article will discuss what happens in a pharmacy from the time a new prescription is dropped off to when it is ready for pickup.

First, let’s discuss who you will find working on a pharmacy team:

Pharmacists: Medication management experts – they complete a professional degree (Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy or Doctor of Pharmacy) from an accredited university, successfully pass adequate exams to be licensed to practice in their country and/or province/state, and continuously learn about new medications and medication management strategies. In some provinces, pharmacists can prescribe, order and interpret lab tests, give vaccinations, and initiate drug therapy where needed.

Pharmacy Technicians: Pharmacy technicians are regulated health care professionals. They complete an accredited training program and must pass an exam to be qualified to practice in their province/state. Pharmacy technicians can verify medication orders, check the accuracy of filled prescriptions, perform sterile compounding, and perform many other tasks to keep a pharmacy operating smoothly.

Pharmacy Students: Pharmacy students are enrolled in an accredited university and are studying to be pharmacists.

Pharmacy Interns: Recently graduated pharmacy students who haven’t completed their licensing exam yet. In some jurisdictions, this could be a pharmacist from another country who hasn’t been licensed in their new country/province.

Pharmacy Assistants: Pharmacy assistants ensure that a pharmacy runs smoothly. Some of their tasks include accepting prescriptions, answering phone calls, refilling medications, creating patient files, packaging medications, and releasing prescriptions to patients.

Move through the pharmacy with your prescription!

Let’s discuss a generalized overview of the steps that a prescription goes through before it is released back to you. Note that some pharmacies have additional steps built into their order of operations, and some pharmacies use different software that might set up the workflow differently.