By Marlen Castañeda, Pharmacy Technician in McKinney, Texas
I am a certified, registered pharmacy technician. A pharmacy tech works alongside a pharmacist and assists in typing and filling prescriptions. We can do almost everything a pharmacist does — except counsel patients. Counseling is very important in the pharmacy because it covers so much information in such little time.
When a patient arrives at a pharmacy they are greeted by me, a tech. I am usually the one to type the labels on their prescriptions. Being that I am bilingual, I sometimes type the instructions in Spanish at the patient’s and doctor’s request. The problem with this, though, is that sometimes the tech who is typing the script doesn’t speak, read or write Spanish, so the directions are written incorrectly.
The pharmacist is required to verify everything the tech does with a prescription before it leaves the pharmacy so that he/she can catch any mistakes, such as dosage, strength, etc. These common mistakes are usually corrected at this point wjem filling a prescription.
However, when a prescription is being translated from English to Spanish, it is difficult if a pharmacist isn’t bilingual, because he/she is unable to catch simple mistakes. So, even if a pharmacist does their job in verifying a prescription, errors can slip by unnoticed. We can’t always rely on the computers to auto-translate because that’s when mistakes occur.
The most important and simplest way to avoid any dangerous mistakes and to verify that the patient knows how to take the medicine as prescribed by their doctor is by allowing the pharmacist to counsel you. Most patients decline the counsel and walk away confident they know what to take and how — and that’s not always the case. Usually a doctor explains to the patient how to take their medications. Then, when the patient leaves the pharmacy, they walk away feeling confident in what they are taking and how.
A pharmacist counseling a patient not only repeats those instructions, but goes into further detail, also advising against allergies, side effects, interactions etc. In other words, things that the doctor may not have gone over with the patient. So I advise that all patients accept pharmacy counsel, request someone to translate for them, and ask questions. Especially for those patients receiving new prescriptions and those who speak English as a second language.
It takes 2 minutes of their time and may save their life and prevent any life-threatening mistakes. Not all patients have the luxury of having their adult children check medications for them. Not all patients have a doctor who carefully monitors their medications — at least not as closely as their pharmacist typically would.
I also recommend that patients fill all their medications at one single pharmacy — always. This allows the pharmacist to know all the medications one patient takes at any given time. Allowing him/her to monitor for interactions and other potential problems. When patients fill at several pharmacies, it is difficult for one pharmacist to know what medications patients are taking. Even the over-the-counter (OTC) medications that seem harmless might present a risk, which brings me to my next point, never hesitate to ask your pharmacist about those medications that are OTC. They can always provide valuable information that your doctor may overlook.
People today are too casual towards prescriptions, and that’s always a dangerous attitude. Medications can save and and help make our lives more fulfilling, but with this casual attitude, they can also be deadly.
[Photo By e-MagineArt]