What Does A Hospital-Based Pharmacy Technician Do?

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If I asked you to imagine where a pharmacy technician worked, you probably picture your local CVS or Walgreens, right?

But pharmacy techs don’t just work in retail environments. Many work in hospitals too.

And that’s great news if the idea of dealing with customers brings you out in a cold sweat!

But what exactly do hospital-based pharmacy technicians do?

Is it very different from working as a retail-based pharmacy technician? Or are pharmacies all pretty much the same when you get down to it?

These are important questions for anyone considering a career as a pharmacy tech, so let’s find some answers now:

What are the duties of a Pharmacy Technician in a hospital?

OK, we hear you. Before you start thinking about taking your PTCB exam, you probably want to know what life as a pharmacy technician will be like.

But as you’ve probably noticed, most of the information out there assumes you’ll be working in a retail environment. Annoying, right?

Well, don’t worry, we’ve taken a look at what duties are expected of hospital-based pharmacy technicians. 

So, let’s take a look, shall we:

Although specific duties will depend on your employer, hospital-based pharmacy techs are generally expected to assist the registered hospital pharmacist(s) in performing pharmaceutical duties such as:

  • Preparing drugs (including compounding IV medications)
  • Filling prescriptions for medical staff
  • Keeping inventory and ordering supplies
  • Filling out hospital paperwork and updating patient records

Since hospitals are open 24/7, the hours worked by pharmacy techs are variable. Both night shifts and weekend shifts are common (well, those IVs and pain meds won’t always wait until morning!). 

This might not be the best news for those looking for a standard 9-5. But it’s great for those of us who need to work around existing commitments. 

In fact, with such a wide range of hours available, it shouldn’t be too tricky to find a job that doesn’t interfere too much with your caring responsibilities, hobbies, or love of sleeping late in the morning.

But how does this differ from working as a retail-based pharmacy technician?

Let’s take a look:

What’s the difference between retail and hospital pharmacy settings?

Did you read our list of common duties of a hospital-based pharmacy tech and think:

“Those duties sound just like working as a pharmacy tech in a retail environment!”

Well, you’re not wrong. There’s a huge overlap between hospital and retail pharmacy work. And that makes sense, right? I mean otherwise, you’d need to take different exams to work in each setting.

But that doesn’t mean that both jobs are identical. In fact, there are some pretty significant differences between the two types of employers.

So, let’s take a look at them now:

Less emphasis on customer service

If you work in a retail-based pharmacy, you will deal with customers. That’s an unavoidable fact.

Sure you’ll spend time prepping meds and completing inventory checks, but a big chunk of your day is likely to be taken over by serving customers.

Now, this is perfect if you excel at customer service. But what if you prefer a quieter life?

Well, in hospital settings, it is often health care practitioners that request prescriptions. This means that, instead of the general public, you’ll be working closely with colleagues from across the hospital.

Now, we can’t guarantee that all your colleagues will be great. But at least no one will be asking for their money back on a half-finished prescription!

More hands-on work

Whether working in a retail establishment or a hospital, pharmacy technicians need to be able to cut, mix, and handle drugs safely.

But in a hospital, these skills are used with even greater frequency. And that’s because medication in hospitals is often prescribed in individual doses, rather than in larger blister packs often seen in retail. 

Not only that but, because of the needs of patients in hospitals, pharmacy technicians based in these settings often have the opportunity to use a wider range of laboratory equipment than those working in retail pharmacies. They may also need to work in sterile environments more often and may be responsible for preparing a greater number of compounds.

This makes life as a hospital-based pharmacy tech ideal for people who like to be hands-on at work.

Greater opportunity to assist in clinical trials

Without clinical trials, we couldn’t safely discover how well new drugs worked, or whether they were safe.

It’s without a doubt an important job and as a hospital-based pharmacy tech, you’re likely to have the opportunity to assist on some of these trials by:

  • Compounding and dispensing trial medications
  • Ensuring new drugs are stored and handled correctly
  • Keeping paperwork and inventory up-to-date


That all sounds exciting, right? But don’t forget, whether you choose to work in a retail or hospital environment, passing your PTCB exam is a key step in becoming a certified pharmacy technician.

But don’t worry, our PTCB Hero study guide has all the information you’ll need if you want to pass first time. And with our money-back satisfaction guarantee, you’ve got nothing to lose, but a lot to gain!

Where else can certified pharmacy technicians work?

Not sold on working in a hospital or retail environment? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of choice in the world of pharmacy technicians.

Why not explore jobs in clinics, assisted living facilities, or mail-order pharmacies?  

You can even become a pharmacy technician in the military!

But wherever you plan to work, it pays to be prepared. Want to check whether you’re ready for your PTCB exam? Try our free practice test now.

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

Michelle is Medical Hero's in-house expert on the PTCB exam and pharmacy technician careers.