What Does a Pharmacy Assistant Do and What to Expect

October 13th, 2021

If you have picked up a prescription from your local pharmacy, there is a good chance a pharmacy assistant has helped put that together for you. You are probably wondering, “What does a pharmacy assistant do?”

Working under the supervision of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists, pharmacy assistants typically take care of the administrative side of the pharmacy such as counting medication, labeling bottles, stocking pharmacy shelves, taking customer phone calls, and managing the cash register. “A knowledgeable pharmacy assistant helps the pharmacy team to achieve better patient health outcome,” said triOS College’s Pharmacy Assistant Faculty Head Meenakshi Sharma.

A pharmacy assistant helping a customer

A pharmacy assistant’s duties can vary depending on the workplace.

 

How Much Does a Pharmacy Assistant Make?

Pharmacy assistants usually earn anywhere between $15 to $25 per hour according to positions posted on Job Bank Canada. A pharmacy assistant’s salary can vary depending on location, qualification, and experience. As with most professions, the more experience you have, the more potential there is for a pay increment. One of the best ways to get experience in this field is to enroll in a Pharmacy Assistant Program that offers students internships, so you can gain real-world experience.    

Pharmacy Assistant Duties  

A pharmacy assistant’s job description can vary depending on whether you work in a retail pharmacy such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall, a medical center pharmacy, a community pharmacy, or a hospital. Some are employed by pharmaceutical companies, drug wholesalers, and pharmacy supply companies. The main duties of a pharmacy assistant are spread between three main skill categories: customer service, medical, and mathematical.

Typical day-to-day responsibilities include:   

  • answering medication questions over the phone and in-person    
  • assessing patients’ prescription for completeness   
  • helping process third-party insurance claims    
  • stocking over-the-counter medication     
  • measuring pills, ointments, and creams  
  • packaging and labeling prescription medications   
  • entering patient information and prescription in the system  
  • placing orders for stock to maintain inventory   
  • accepting payment for prescriptions

Pharmacy assistants must be able to perform routine tasks while maintaining a high degree of accuracy and concentration. While pharmacy assistants carry out important daily tasks, there are things they cannot do including but not limited to signing off on prescriptions, giving recommendations on over-the-counter medication, and advising a customer on their medication. These tasks can only be carried out by a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician.  

Is Pharmacy Assistant a Good Job?  

Along with administrative skills, the job requires customer interaction. Pharmacy assistants, along with pharmacists, are the frontline of health care. They play a key role in helping people get their medication easily and on time and may also require you to work evenings and weekends. On the other hand, the job is rewarding — you are helping people every day achieve better health and your services can improve the quality of their life. The role requires you to deal with new customers, prescriptions, and medications and because of that, there is always something new to learn.

To be successful in the role, a pharmacy assistant must have the following skills and characteristics: attention to detail, effective communication skills, a caring attitude, and the ability to remain calm under an urgent or stressful situation. On top of these, Sharma commented that a life-long learning aptitude can help a pharmacy assistant succeed. Such a professional needs to be updated with Canada’s commonly used drugs (both branded and generic), provincial and federal regulations, and pharmacy computer systems.

Becoming a pharmacy assistant is also a great way to gain experience within the pharmaceutical industry. With additional training, you can move to other professions with additional responsibilities such as pharmacy technicians.  

How to Become a Pharmacy Assistant?  

Pharmacy assistants continue to have strong employment prospects in Canada. If you decide that becoming a pharmacy assistant is the right career move for you, then one of the first steps is to gain a pharmacy assistant qualification. It can be quite a challenge to find employment without education and experience. 

Pharmacy assistants are not regulated in Ontario. All you need is to complete a pharmacy assistant program at a reputable college and start work at any retail, community, or hospital pharmacy. The program covers the Canadian computer system used at pharmacies and other topics such as anatomy and physiology terminology, how to process a prescription, basic pharmacy math, how to avoid medication errors, retail pharmacy best practices, and much more.    

The program can usually be completed in under one year. Internships during the program are a great way to put all the skills you learned to practice, network, and potentially get hired after the completion of your program.     

Are you ready to embark on a new career path in the healthcare sector? You’ll be ready to hit the ground running with our Pharmacy Assistant program