Types of Pharmacies: 7 Places People Pick Up Prescriptions

Types of Pharmacies

A pharmacy technician plays a key role in helping people feel better and stay healthy. It’s truly a profession with meaning and value for helping society. But before you train to become a pharmacy technician, you might want to consider your potential work environments.

You’re probably thinking a pharmacy is a pharmacy, right? The truth is that there are several types of pharmacies out there. While many of the duties of a pharmacy tech remain the same in these different settings, there are still some important differences to be aware of.

A closer look at the types of pharmacies where you could land a job:

1. Retail pharmacy

Pharmacies in retail stores are the most common and visible places of employment for pharmacy technicians. Opportunities exist in traditional drugstores such as Walgreens or CVS to pharmacy departments in big box retailers such as Walmart. Many grocery stores also have pharmacies nowadays.

Working in a retail pharmacy means working a retail lifestyle, which includes being scheduled to work evenings and weekends. Retail work involves significant customer service contact, so you need to be a genuine people person. Besides assisting pharmacists in preparing prescriptions, you can expect to be asked questions about over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.

A great thing about working in the retail sector is that jobs exist almost everywhere, so you’ll have a lot of flexibility in finding employment near where you live. Retail pharmacies are found in every region of the country and in both big cities and small towns.

2. Hospital pharmacy

In a hospital setting, you’ll help prepare prescriptions, but you’ll also handle administrative tasks such as updating patient records, scheduling appointments and handling billing statements. Being a versatile team player who is ready to help in a variety of tasks is essential.

Hospital pharmacies perform both inpatient and outpatient services. For inpatient services, you’ll work closely with other medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists to ensure accurate dispensing of medications. For outpatient services, you will find yourself advising patients about their medications. It’s vital that patients understand when and how often they should take their medications, as well as dosage levels and instructions about proper handling. Because patient lives depend on it, pharmacy technicians need to be strong verbal communicators.

3. Clinic pharmacy

Working in a clinic or doctor’s office puts you in the center of a healthcare environment. You’ll be working closely with doctors, nurses and medical assistants. Similar to working in a hospital, you can expect a variety of duties from preparing prescriptions to handling administrative tasks.

Clinical work allows you to specialize in serving a specific type of patient or medical need. While some clinics, such as general practice or internal medicine, serve a wide spectrum of patients, clinics serving a medical specialty allow you to work with a certain type of patient, which provides greater expertise in a specific area of healthcare. People with a targeted passion may find this to be an appealing opportunity.

4. Home care pharmacy

Home care pharmacies serve people who find it difficult to leave home due to their physical condition. Elderly or critically ill patients often fall into this category. Pharmacy technicians will commonly work with doctors, nurses and medical assistants who make home visits.

Home care pharmacists tend to work with fewer numbers of patients, resulting in more direct involvement with patients, families and caregivers. Counseling people about the proper use of medications is a common responsibility. You can expect to assist families with paperwork and insurance claims, too.

Work hours can be somewhat irregular as a home care pharmacy technician. That can be good and bad. You can expect a certain amount of flexibility, yet some jobs require employees to work on an on-call basis.

5. Mail order pharmacy

An increasing number of patients are choosing to have prescriptions filled through mail order pharmacies. When working in this environment, you’ll have little contact with patients, or people in general. Your job will mainly consist of preparing prescriptions for shipment.

When working for a company serving patients through mail order delivery, you can expect a fairly predictable schedule with regular shifts. Unlike retail, you probably won’t have to work “surprise” shifts when the next worker calls in sick.

6. Assisted living and long-term care pharmacy

Some homes serving senior citizens will have in-house pharmacy operations. When working in these settings, you’ll need to develop an understanding and empathy with geriatric health issues. You will interact with patients themselves in independent-living buildings for seniors and with families and caregivers when patients require more assistance.

7. Compounding pharmacy

For some patients, one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to medications. Some people require medications that are formulated to specific needs. Preparing these customized medications is the practice known as compounding. As a pharmacy technician, you would assist a pharmacist in the preparation of these medications.

Compounding could involve changing the strength, altering the delivery form, adding a flavor or removing an ingredient—just to name a few possibilities.

With the different types of pharmacies, opportunities abound!

When searching for a career with abundant opportunities, you’ll find many open doors to jobs as a pharmacy technician. So if being an integral player in the growing health and medical field appeals to you, you’ll want to check out our article, “10 Things You Need to Know Before Working in a Pharmacy.” If it seems right for you, your career can move forward in multiple directions with the types of pharmacies that exist in the healthcare industry.


Gordon Hanson

Gordon is a freelance writer for Collegis Education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. He enjoys using the storytelling power of words to help others discover new paths in the journeys of life.

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