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Pharmacy Technician vs Sterile Processing Technician

Pharmacy Technician vs Sterile Processing Technician

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Key Points:

  • Pharmacy Technicians assist pharmacists; Sterile Processing Technicians prepare and sterilize medical equipment.
  • Pharmacy Technicians typically earn higher wages than Sterile Processing Technicians.
  • Pharmacy Technician roles are more widely available than Sterile Processing Technician positions.
  • Both jobs require in-person training, but Pharmacy Technician programs may also offer online options.
  • Pharmacy Technician training is generally more expensive and takes longer than Sterile Processing Technician training.

When it comes to choosing a career in the healthcare field, there are many options to consider. Two popular choices are pharmacy technician and sterile processing technician. While both professions are crucial in supporting the healthcare system, they have distinct roles and responsibilities. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between a pharmacy technician and a sterile processing technician, including their job descriptions, education and training requirements, and career outlook.

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What is a Pharmacy Technician and Sterile Processing Technician?

Pharmacy Technician: A pharmacy technician is a healthcare professional who assists pharmacists in dispensing medications to patients. They work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, retail pharmacies, and long-term care facilities. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for tasks such as counting and measuring medication doses, preparing prescription labels, and managing inventory.

Sterile Processing Technician: A sterile processing technician, also known as a central sterile processing technician or a sterile processing and distribution technician, is responsible for ensuring that surgical instruments and equipment are properly sterilized and prepared for use in medical procedures. They work in hospitals, surgical centers, and other healthcare facilities. Sterile processing technicians are responsible for tasks such as cleaning and decontaminating instruments, assembling surgical trays, and operating sterilization equipment.

Difference between a Pharmacy Technician and a Sterile Processing Technician

While both pharmacy technicians and sterile processing technicians work in the healthcare field, their roles and responsibilities differ significantly. Here are some key differences between the two professions:

  1. Job Focus: Pharmacy technicians primarily focus on medication-related tasks, such as preparing prescriptions, managing inventory, and assisting pharmacists. On the other hand, sterile processing technicians focus on ensuring that surgical instruments are properly sterilized and prepared for medical procedures.

  2. Patient Interaction: Pharmacy technicians often have direct interaction with patients. They may answer questions about medications, provide medication counseling, and process insurance claims. Sterile processing technicians, on the other hand, have minimal to no patient interaction. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and sterility of surgical instruments.

  3. Work Environment: Pharmacy technicians typically work in retail pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare settings where medications are dispensed. Sterile processing technicians work in sterile processing departments within hospitals or surgical centers.

  4. Responsibilities: Pharmacy technicians are responsible for tasks such as counting and measuring medication doses, preparing prescription labels, and managing inventory. Sterile processing technicians are responsible for tasks such as cleaning and decontaminating instruments, assembling surgical trays, and operating sterilization equipment.

Pharmacy Technician vs Sterile Processing Technician: Job Description

To better understand the specific job duties of pharmacy technicians and sterile processing technicians, let's take a closer look at their job descriptions:

Pharmacy Technician Job Description:

  • Assist pharmacists in dispensing medications to patients.
  • Count and measure medication doses.
  • Prepare prescription labels.
  • Manage inventory and restock medications.
  • Process insurance claims and handle billing.
  • Answer patient questions about medications.
  • Provide medication counseling.
  • Maintain patient records.

Sterile Processing Technician Job Description:

  • Clean and decontaminate surgical instruments.
  • Assemble surgical trays.
  • Operate sterilization equipment.
  • Inspect instruments for defects or damage.
  • Maintain accurate records of sterilization processes.
  • Collaborate with surgical and nursing staff to ensure instrument availability.
  • Adhere to infection control and safety protocols.
  • Stay updated on the latest sterilization techniques and guidelines.

Pharmacy Technician vs Sterile Processing Technician: Education and Training

To pursue a career as a pharmacy technician or a sterile processing technician, certain education and training requirements must be met. Here is what you need to know:

Pharmacy Technician Education and Training:

  • High school diploma or equivalent.
  • Completion of a pharmacy technician training program, which can range from a few months to a year.
  • Some states require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Certification can be obtained through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcare Association (NHA).
  • On-the-job training may also be provided by employers.

Sterile Processing Technician Education and Training:

  • High school diploma or equivalent.
  • Completion of a sterile processing technician training program, which typically takes around 6 to 12 months.
  • Some states may require sterile processing technicians to be certified. Certification can be obtained through organizations such as the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) or the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM).
  • On-the-job training may also be provided by employers.

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Pharmacy Technician vs Sterile Processing Technician: Career Outlook and Salary

When considering a career, it's important to also consider the job prospects and potential earnings. Here is an overview of the career outlook and salary for pharmacy technicians and sterile processing technicians:

Pharmacy Technician Career Outlook:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
  • The demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to increase due to the aging population and the need for prescription medications.
  • The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $34,020 in May 2020, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $49,130.

Sterile Processing Technician Career Outlook:

  • According to the BLS, employment of sterile processing technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
  • The demand for sterile processing technicians is driven by the increasing number of surgical procedures and the need for properly sterilized instruments.
  • The median annual wage for sterile processing technicians was $38,740 in May 2020, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $52,220.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a career as a pharmacy technician or a sterile processing technician can be a rewarding choice for individuals interested in the healthcare field. While both professions play essential roles in supporting patient care, they have distinct job duties and responsibilities. Consider your interests, skills, and career goals when deciding which path to pursue. Whether you choose to become a pharmacy technician or a sterile processing technician, both careers offer opportunities for growth and advancement in the healthcare industry.

Dreambound offers programs in multiple locations. For in-depth information on the intricacies of these two vocations, their prerequisites, and steps to join, explore the following blogs:

Fel Gonzaga
Written by
Fel Gonzaga

Fel is a student support representative who guides enrollees to the right program and answers their queries. She's committed to helping students and takes pride in her work. In her free time, she enjoys sightseeing and hanging out with loved ones.

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