Pharmacy Jobs: Looking at the staff that makes a Pharmacy Tick

The pharmacy is becoming a second home for a lot of people and the Pharmacist has become the person to turn to when in doubt. Pharmacist jobs contributed a whopping R36,1-billion to South Africa’s GDP (R2,5-billion were exports) between 2008 and 2009 so you can see just how big this industry is.

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A pharmacy is a one stop shop for all things health orientated. Here you can get medication that has been prescribed to you by a doctor or get self-medicating products that are safe to use without speaking to a doctor first. Most pharmacies will also sell everyday items like toiletries and some might have specialized gifts for sale.

Pharmacy jobs are a very good avenue to look into as this industry won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Even if you didn’t get amazing marks at school, you can still go into this industry by taking a Pharmacist assistant course or working as a pharmacy technician. We will look into the different types of staff you will find working in a pharmacy, what their jobs entail and what you will need to be able to work in these capacities.

Pharmacy assistant jobs (sales)

This is the most junior position that someone can hold at a pharmacy and is also known as pharmacy clerk or aid. A Pharmacy Assistant will undertake mostly administrative function like labelling over the counter medicine, cleaning and arranging stock areas and keeping the pharmacy running. You will most likely spend the majority of your time on the floor merchandising stock or behind the cashier’s table ringing up people’s goods.

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You will meet a lot of customers doing this as you are on the shop floor, answering phones and speaking directly with clients. You might also be behind a dispensary counter giving patients medication and merchandise but this will happen if there is no one else to help a client.

How to qualify for pharmacy assistant jobs

There are four ways to be eligible for pharmacy assistant jobs and these are as follows:

1. On-the-job training (also known as a pharmacist assistant course): You will undergo on-the-job training and will become familiarized with the stock control methods that the pharmacy is using. You might also undergo training to familiarize yourself with the over-the-counter merchandise and medication that will be on sale.

2. A learnership: you can do a Wholesale and Retail Generic Management at Level 5 which is a one year long course that can be done at any business management school or university across the country.

3. A certificate in Sales Management: This is a specialist marketing management course that is geared to give you a good understanding of any sales industry. Many business schools and universities across South Africa offer this course.

The Pharmacy Technician

These pharmacy jobs are a next step up from an assistant and you are essentially there to help the main Pharmacist perform their day-to-day activities. You might find yourself performing some clerical functions, but your main tasks will be to verify customer information and prescriptions, record data, prepare and package medication according to a doctor’s script. You will also be behind the prescription counter helping patients with medication that doctors have given them the go-ahead to use. Attention to detail is key here because if your dosages are wrong or if you give out the wrong medication, the consequences could be very serious and even life threatening.

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As a technician in these types of pharmacy jobs, you will be under the supervision of a fully qualified pharmacist and this has to be done as work experience prior to becoming a fully qualified pharmacist. This work experience is mandatory as it familiarizes you with the workings of a pharmacy and introduces you to dealing with clients, which can be a whole skill on its own.

Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

The path to becoming a Technician in this field of study requires you to register as a trainee with the South African Pharmacy Council or SACP. You will undergo a 12 month theoretical and practical training where you will learn about the human body, how different medication will affect the body and on how to properly dispense medication. Once this is completed you will be qualified with the title of a Pharmacist Assistant Basic.

After this you will have to do a Post Basic Level Pharmacy Assistant learnership which is an NQF level 4 course that consists of a 12 month in-service training at a SACP approved pharmacy. You will then have to register again at the SACP as a Pharmacist’s Assistant Learner Post Basic and you will be fully qualified to undertake Pharmacy Technician jobs.

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The Pharmacist

Pharmacist jobs entails being the link between your pharmaceutical companies and the doctors that prescribe their patients medication. You will put together a list of medications that can either be prescribed or those that are over the counter, to give a patient the best care for their particular ailment. A professional within this field of pharmacy jobs also acts like a doctor and can advise patients on preventative health measures and help clients with minor injuries.

On top of this, it is a Pharmacist’s responsibility to make sure they keep detailed records of patients’ transactions so they don’t over dispense medication and so their patients don’t become addicted or unnecessarily dependent on medication.

Pharmacists can be found in a large variety of sectors and industries. This includes hospitals, retail pharmacies and even classrooms. Pharmacists might also find themselves in laboratories or as pharmaceutical manufacturers in large pharmaceutical conglomerates. Some will travel a lot and market medications to a variety of health care facilities and professions.

What kind of person do I need to be?

To be successful within this medically related field, you need to firstly be a people’s person. Almost your entire working day will be spent dealing with people and if you don’t enjoy this, then the pharmacy isn’t the right choice for you.

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You then need to be interested in science and chemistry and how this affects the human body. You need to be a very responsible person too as you are dealing with items that can be illegal if given to the wrong people and can potentially harm if given the wrong doses.

Lastly, you need to be discreet and professional as you will hear about all sorts of embarrassing health issues. You have to keep these to yourself if you want to build good relationships with your customers.

Becoming a Pharmacist

In order to qualify for the top level pharmacist jobs, you need to become a registered Pharmacist. To do this one needs to study a Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) degree at any university that is accredited with the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC). These universities include the Nelson Mandel Metropolitan University, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Rhodes, North-west University, Tshwane University of technology, University of Limpopo, UKZN, WITS and the University of the Western Cape.

All of the courses or learning programs that are undertaken at these universities need to be accredited with the SACP and you will also have to register with the SACP before you can start your studies.

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The degree consists of a four year, full time, course followed by a twelve month practical training course. One you have completed this course, you are evaluated and then registered as a pharmacist. You are then allowed to practice independently as a registered and fully qualified professional.

If you are interested in this industry, then it is time to get started with a pharmacist assistant course. Obtaining industry specific experience in the pharmaceutical industry will help you to build your skills and knowledge. If you are already qualified as a Pharmacist or Pharmacy Technician, why not register your CV today on JobMail.co.za and apply for up to date Pharmacist jobs? Job Mail is the answer for finding a vacancy that best suits you.

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Bruce Ungersbock

Bruce is an SEO guy that has his eye on the prize and traffic on his mind. A lover of good music and a connoisseur of all things awesome.

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