Putting my education into practice: Community edition

My second and final practicum is officially complete. It was five interesting weeks of learning more about pharmacy procedures and protocols. I worked alongside some of the kindest and most knowledgeable Pharmacy Technicians. These five weeks will remain the most memorable of this program as they solidified my sense of accomplishment.

Choosing my ideal pharmacy

Sheri at work at Care Rx

Three weeks before my start date, my Stenberg instructor informed me that I would be completing my community practicum at my top choice, Care Rx. I had researched pharmacies in my area and chose this pharmacy because they deal primarily with seniors. Over the last couple of years, I realized my passion lies in helping seniors and contributing to their well-being. A passion that ignited when I worked at an optometrist’s office and only grew stronger throughout the Pharmacy Technician program. In a previous blog post, I mentioned that working in a long-term care facility as a Pharmacy Technician would be my dream career, and this practicum proved that to me. Care Rx is a distributor of medications to residents in long-term care facilities, so despite not working directly with seniors, I know that I am making a difference in their health needs. It was an incredibly fulfilling five weeks.

First day on the job

On my first day, Brad, the Pharmacy Manager, gave me an orientation and introduced me to the employees, many of who have been here for many years. So, it must be a great place to work as they are very successful in employee retention. By lunch, I knew I could see myself in this pharmacy long-term. The environment is welcoming and easy-going. Although it was a busy day, the Pharmacy Technicians conversed with me and ensured my comfort. They were willing to put their work aside to answer my questions to make sure I was learning and understanding.

Order of operations

The PACMED produces the medication roll

Care Rx runs differently than most pharmacies I learned about in school. It is similar to a distribution center, running in a series of events. Once a doctor in a care facility assesses their patient, they fax a prescription or order to our pharmacy. A Pharmacist determines the therapeutic appropriateness of the medication based on the patient’s current medications and health conditions. After approval from the Pharmacist, a Pharmacy Technician enters the order into the computer system. Occasionally, the order entry process can be quick, but other times, it can take nearly an hour to complete due to its complexity.

Here is where the process becomes interesting for me. Depending on the prescription, it may be filled and completed by a Pharmacy Technician or sent electronically to the Pharmacy Assistant for input into the PACMED machine for packaging. The PACMED creates personalized and secure medication packages to administer to patients safely. After the PACMED produces the medication roll, the Pharmacy Assistants feed the roll into the PACVision for inspection. The PACVision takes a photo of each pouch to verify the colour, size, shape, and quality of every tablet and flags any discrepancies. Once the medication roll has run through the PACVision, a Pharmacy Technician verifies any discrepancies to ensure a complete and accurate final product. The pharmacy ships and delivers the final product to the patient at the care facility.

PACMED and PACVision machines

The PacVision checks for discrepancies

The PACMED and PACVision machines were brand new to me as we didn’t learn much about them in classes. The PACMED is a large machine storing thousands of tablets in small canisters. This machine will produce a strip of perforated, see-through packages containing tablets based on the patient, medication, date and time the Pharmacy Technician enters into the computer. The PACMED imprints the packages with the patient’s name, medications and quantities, and date and time to be administered, allowing for easy administration by a health care professional.

The PACVision is a fascinating machine. It takes a photo of every pouch in a medication strip in under a second, checks for the correct colours and numbers of each pill in each pouch, and flags pouches that don’t appear perfect. Discrepancies can happen due to a missing tablet or an extra tablet falling in. Both machines help reduce the chance of a medication error.

Daily operations

There are many tasks that Pharmacy Technicians oversee at Care Rx. One critical task is order entry. The Pharmacy Technician must always pay close attention to how we enter orders because a tiny mistake could result in a medication error that could harm a patient. Compounding is another task we complete. Creams are the most common compound we mix, as most of our compounded prescriptions come from compounding pharmacies outside our city. Other daily tasks include filling prescriptions, faxing doctors’ offices for renewal requests, answering phones, shipping and receiving, inventory control, and more. There aren’t many opportunities to become bored as a task always needs to be completed.

Dreams do come true

During my practicum, I learned a full-time position was available for a Licensed Pharmacy Technician at CareRx. I was eager to apply for the job but knew I wouldn’t be licensed for another five to six months as I had to wait for my licensing exams. At the end of my second week, I decided to apply for it and hope they would be okay with hiring an unlicensed Pharmacy Technician. I was already in love with the pharmacy and my coworkers and enjoyed going to work every day. I knew I could see myself there long-term.

The following day, Brad came to me and told me that he saw that I applied online and offered me an interview. The interview went smoothly. The following two weeks slowly passed as I waited to hear if I would receive a job offer. Brad was on vacation, so I knew I wouldn’t hear until he returned. Three days before completing my practicum, I received an official job offer as a Pharmacy Technician at CareRx. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I was ecstatic! This job is a dream come true. Receiving a job offer before graduating is what everyone hopes for, and I’m thrilled and honoured to say that it happened to me!

Looking forward

The last day of my practicum was also my last day of school. I officially graduated and have my diploma! In a month, I will be completing my licensing exams, which makes me quite nervous as it has been a couple of months since I have taken a test. My classmates and I frequently talk about how anxious these exams make us. We have come so far and passed many difficult tests, so I am confident that we will all pass and become Registered Pharmacy Technicians this year!

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