Who does what in a pharmacy: A primer

contributing columnistJuly 19, 2014 

You're waiting to pick up your prescription and you notice all those people back in the pharmacy department. Who are those people and what are their roles?

It's normal to be confused about who does what. A University of Kentucky study concluded that even knowledgeable observers had difficulty understanding the roles of each staffer in the pharmacy. Here's a guide to help you the next time you're having a prescription filled:

Pharmacist-in-charge: A licensed pharmacist responsible for the operation of a pharmacy. They assure the pharmacy is following all applicable state statutes and administrative regulations regarding the distribution of prescription drugs and medical devices.

The pharmacist: Some pharmacies have more than one pharmacist. These are fully licensed individuals who have graduated from an accredited college of pharmacy, passed the licensure examination, and are meeting continuing education requirements mandated by the state of Kentucky. Only a pharmacist can dispense a prescription for controlled substances, such as painkillers.

The pharmacist intern: In areas of the country where there is a college of pharmacy, a patient may also encounter a pharmacist intern. This is a student enrolled at a college of pharmacy who is receiving supervised, on-the-job training in the various aspects of professional pharmacy practice.

In Kentucky the pharmacist intern must complete 1,500 hours of service. As part of their training, pharmacist interns are authorized to engage in professional and technical pharmacy activities, including preparing prescriptions for non-controlled substances.

Certified pharmacy technician: The tech assists in activities not requiring the professional judgment of a pharmacist, such as receiving a refill authorization from a prescriber. A non-certified pharmacy technician is limited to technical activities under the immediate supervision of a pharmacist.

Pharmacy clerk: Tends the counter and the business aspects of the transaction, such as ringing up the sale and completing the credit card transaction.

Joseph L Fink is a Professor of Pharmacy Law and Policy at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.

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