General Questions

What goes on behind the counter anyways?

Pharmacists make sure your prescriptions are safe, appropriate and effectively tailored for you.

By Beth Kessler

A day in the life of a pharmacist is more than dispensing your medication. Find out more here.

In a pharmacy, is everyone behind the counter a pharmacist?


In many pharmacies, pharmacists have pharmacy technicians to assist with the day-to-day technical functions, so that pharmacists can focus their time on patient care responsibilities.

Pharmacy technicians

  • support pharmacists by performing duties that do not require the professional skills of a pharmacist
  • assist in the duties that require the expertise of a pharmacist
  • are involved in preparing drugs, entering drug orders, controlling pharmacy inventory
  • maintain the function of complex equipment
  • obtain insurance authorizations.

Pharmacy technicians are licensed, regulated professionals who are designated through the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals. They are employed in every practice setting where there is a pharmacy including community, hospital and long-term care pharmacies.

Other staff may include pharmacy assistants who is "an unregulated person who is not an intern, and who is employed in a pharmacy to assist the licensed pharmacist or licensed pharmacy technician in performing functions."

For more information on the scope of practice for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, click here.

* Source of definition for pharmacy assistant is from the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals.

What's involved in a preparing a prescription?

There is a lot more to preparing your prescription than counting pills, typing a label and sticking it on a container.

count, pour, lick, stick!

Your pharmacist checks:

  • the information provided by your doctor, dentist, or other health care provider is complete
  • the medication, strength, and dosage instructions to make sure they are right for you
  • you are not allergic to the medication
  • reviews your confidential Electronic Health Record (EHR) profile to check for potential problems such as duplicate therapy or drug interactions
  • enters the details of your current prescription onto your Electronic Health Record (EHR) profile

Once your prescription is filled and checked your pharmacist talks to you about why you have been prescribed this particular drug. S/he counsels you on how and when to take your medication, what potential side effects you may need to watch for and how to store your medication.

What's in the cost?

The total cost of your prescription from a community pharmacy is the sum of:

  • the pharmacy's drug cost
  • a small markup
  • the professional fee which is sometimes referred to as the dispensing fee. The professional fee covers the operating costs of the pharmacy (salaries, computers and programs, rent, heat, electricity and dispensing supplies), plus the many services your pharmacist provides.

Why the questions about my condition(s)? Does my pharmacist need to know that?

Pharmacists are drug therapy experts and are responsible for comprehensive medication therapy management.

Your pharmacist’s main responsibility is to find, fix and prevent drug-related problems. Many medications can be used for more than one medical condition. In order to ensure that your medications are appropriate for you and that you will get the most benefit from them, your pharmacist has to understand why you are taking the medications.

Your pharmacist will consider each of your medications and discuss with you how you can achieve the best health outcome.

Did you know?

All pharmacists are licensed health care professionals governed by provincial legislation. In Saskatchewan, many pharmacists are graduates of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and hold a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (BSP) or Doctorate of Pharmacy.

Pharmacists are required to upgrade their drug therapy and patient care knowledge by attending conferences, educational events and through self-learning, in order to get licenced to practice pharmacy every year. 

In Saskatchewan, pharmacists must register with the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals (SCPP) to obtain their licence to practice pharmacy.

Sometimes my pharmacist calls my doctor? Why?

In order to ensure that your medications are appropriate for you and that you will get the most benefit from them, your pharmacist has to understand why you are taking the medications.

Sometimes s/he needs to contact your doctor to confirm the reason the medication has been prescribed or s/he may have some suggestions on a different medication or a different dosage that might work better for you. S/he may also want to talk the doctor about the other medications you are on, especially if there is a possibility of an interaction between two or more of your medications.


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