Are you a pharmacy technician? Do you want to avoid making common mistakes at work? Are you looking for tips to avoid pharmacy technician mistakes and improve your skills? You are at the right place.
In this article, you will learn more about some of the most common pharmacy technician mistakes and the ways to avoid them.
Common Pharmacy Technician Mistakes
It is very common to make mistakes, and as a pharmacy technician, you are more prone to making mistakes. But that may put the patient’s safety at risk. More often, a pharmacy technician works in a fast-paced and stressful environment. Apart from that, they also handle and perform multiple tasks at a time. While working in such an environment, there are high chances that a pharmacy technician can make mistakes.
Here are some of the most common pharmacy technician mistakes that may occur when working as a pharmacy technician.
- Dispensing of wrong medication.
- Mixing up abbreviations and drug names.
- Incorrect/similar drugs (Look-alike or Sound-alike drugs).
- Misplaced decimals or zeros.
- Delivering wrong prescription orders to patients.
- I.V. mixing errors.
- Dispensing wrong dosage or medication due to unclear prescription.
- The wrong dosage of high-alert medications.
- Failed accurate instruction by the patient.
Let’s now discuss these pharmacy technician mistakes in detail.
DISPENSING OF WRONG MEDICATION
One of the most common pharmacy technician mistakes is dispensing the wrong medication. This type of pharmacy technician mistake occurs when the doctor’s prescription is filled with the wrong medications. Pharmacy technicians dispense the wrong medications when they fail to read the prescription carefully.
MIXING UP ABBREVIATIONS AND DRUG NAMES
The second most common pharmacy technician mistake is confusing or mixing up abbreviations and drug names mentioned on the patient’s prescription. Using abbreviations most likely leads to confusion when filling the patient’s prescription. This will mostly increase the risk of errors when handling those drugs.
For example, for ‘cubic centimeters’ the abbreviation is ‘cc’ which can be mistaken for ‘U’ for ‘units’.
INCORRECT/SIMILAR DRUGS (LOOK-ALIKE OR SOUND-ALIKE DRUGS)
One of the other common mistakes a pharmacy technician can possibly make is confusing look-alike or sound-alike drugs and drug names. When a new drug is introduced, you may not be familiar with the new terminology or drug name. In such situations, there are high chances of choosing similar look-alike or sound-alike drugs.
MISPLACED DECIMALS OR ZEROS
As a pharmacy technician, you will be required to work in a fast-paced environment and also multitask at the same time. So, most of the time, the pharmacy technician tends to read and fill prescriptions in a hurry, which may cause misplacing a decimal point, a zero, or a unit.
A misplaced decimal point, a unit, or a zero leads to dispensing the medicine in a much higher or lower dose than was prescribed. This often leads to life-threatening consequences risking the patient’s safety.
DELIVERING WRONG PRESCRIPTION ORDER TO PATIENTS
One of the most common pharmacy technician mistakes is delivering the wrong prescription order to the wrong patient. This often tends to happen as pharmacy technicians are expected to complete their tasks within a short span of time and also handle multiple patients or tasks at the same time.
This is also a mistake that may put the patient’s safety at risk if the patient ends up consuming the wrong medication.
I.V. MIXING ERRORS
Generally, I.V. Mixing errors occur when a pharmacy technician draws up a drug and injects it into a larger quantity, injects the wrong quantity and pulls back the plunger to the correct quantity, or injects the right quantity but pulls back the plunger to the wrong quantity. Any of these mistakes end up being an I.V. mixing error.
DISPENSING WRONG DOSAGE OR MEDICATION DUE TO UNCLEAR PRESCRIPTION
This pharmacy technician mistake occurs when the drug and dosage are mismatched. Often, the handwritten prescriptions by doctors may have poor legibility that leading to dispensing the wrong dosage of medication.
THE WRONG DOSAGE OF HIGH-ALERT MEDICATIONS
When a pharmacy technician takes the wrong dosage of high-alert medications, it puts the patient’s life at risk. Some high-alert medications are insulin, blood thinners, chemotherapy drugs, IV nutrition, injectable electrolytes, opioids, methotrexate, sedative agents, oral hypoglycemic, and opium tincture. The above-mentioned medications may cause serious harm to the patients when taken in the wrong dosage.
FAILED ACCURATE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE PATIENT
As a pharmacy technician, it is your responsibility to give accurate and clear instructions to the patient when delivering the prescription order. Certain medications may have specific instructions to be followed that the patient who consumes them should be aware of.
Specific instructions, such as to refrigerate certain medications, some to be consumed with food, and for certain medications to be consumed hours after food. Not giving clear and accurate instructions may result in ineffective medication or unwanted side effects.
How to Avoid Pharmacy Technician Mistakes
Let’s now discuss some of the ways to avoid committing pharmacy technician mistakes.
- Read the prescription correctly and patiently before you start preparing the prescription order. This may help avoid dispensing errors.
- Communicate with the patient clearly by giving them all the required instructions while delivering the prescription order.
- Familiarize yourself with new terminologies and drug names regularly.
- Label drug names and properly maintain a dedicated space for each drug to avoid confusion between the look-alike and sound-alike drugs.
- Double-check before dispensing the medication and before handing over the prescription to the patient.
- In case of an unclear prescription, seek the help of a coworker or the pharmacist before proceeding to dispense the medication.
- Read and double-check the units, decimals, and zeros before entering the data.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What makes a good pharmacy technician?
Some of the skills that make a good pharmacy technician are as follows:
- Excellent communication skills.
- Good mathematical proficiency.
- Multitasking ability.
- Good computer skills.
- Paying attention to details.
To learn more about what makes a good pharmacy technician, read our article on Top 7 Skills You Need to Be the Best Pharmacy Technician to help you improve on areas you lack as a pharmacy technician.
What can pharmacy technicians not do?
Some of the tasks a pharmacy technician should not do are as follows:
- You must not dispense medications on your own without the approval of a pharmacist.
- You should not consult and prescribe medications to patients.
What can pharmacy technicians legally do?
Some of the tasks a pharmacy technician can legally perform are as follows:
- Mix, measure, count and fill medications as per the patient’s prescription.
- Enter or record information about the patient using the pharmacy management software.
- Pack and label medications for delivery.
- Process or receive payments from patients.
- Check the insurance information of the patient.
Which two practice settings do most pharmacy technicians work in?
The 2 most common places pharmacy technicians practice are:
- A Pharmacy.
- A Hospital.
Apart from hospitals and pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians practice in other places, such as healthcare organizations, community pharmacies, the military, long-term care facilities, in-home healthcare settings, and senior homes.
Can pharmacy technicians become pharmacists?
Pharmacy technicians can become a pharmacist. However, you need to complete a 4-year full-time MPharm degree program along with the required training.
As a pharmacy technician, even a small mistake may put the patient’s life at risk. It is always good practice to concentrate on working accurately and double-checking each and every detail before proceeding further. Just like the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect,” make sure to practice accuracy as you perform tasks every day to avoid such pharmacy technician mistakes.
If you are interested in taking the PTCB exam or know someone who is preparing for the PTCB exam, make sure to check our free practice test to help you efficiently prepare for the exam. You can also refer to our PTCB guide to learn more about the PTCB exam.