When students are enrolled in the Pharmacy Technician program at West Virginia Junior College, they are able to learn about all aspects of being a pharmacy technician. While enrolled in the program, students participate in hands-on training of skills in both retail and clinical settings.
In retail pharmacy, a pharmacy technician inputs new prescriptions into pharmacy software, works with insurance claims, pulls medications to be counted, counts and labels medications for orders, answer phone calls, and interacts with customers on a daily basis. WVJC has a pharmacy software program in which students are able to practice these skills! WVJC also has a pharmacy lab room which is set up as half a retail pharmacy and half a clinical pharmacy. Students have the opportunity to physically count tablets and package them for sale, just like they would in an actual retail pharmacy setting.
Clinical pharmacy is a sector of pharmacy that a lot of students do not think about. Clinical pharmacy can include compounding IV bags, making capsules, mixing ointments, and reconstituting medications. A unique feature of WVJC is that our pharmacy labs have flow hoods. This is the area where IV medications, including chemotherapy drugs, are mixed. During lab courses, students mix medications in the flow hoods.
WVJC’s Pharmacy Technician program is not only unique because of the hands-on training students experience, but also because the program is recognized by the PTCB. The PTCB is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. They regulate and administer certifications to pharmacy technicians. Upon completion of the program at WVJC, students sit for this certification exam. Having this certification is very appealing to employers, as is proves to them that you have the skills necessary to perform your job.
Pharmacy technicians have several options when it comes to career choices. There are retail pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart, and there are also independent pharmacies. On the clinical side of pharmacy, there are inpatient pharmacies in hospitals and nursing homes. Technicians are even needed in correctional facilities and mental health clinics. The possibilities for pharmacy technicians is ever-growing, and the roles they take on are always expanding. Pharmacy technicians have to be able to multi-task, dependable, self-sufficient, and responsible. If a pharmacy tech is working in a retail setting, they need to be personable and patient when interacting with patients. These are all important characteristics employers will look for during the hiring process.
Students complete an externship of 165 hours during their program at WVJC. The externship allows students to go out and work in nearby businesses to get real-life experience in their field of study. WVJC has had students complete externships at small independent pharmacies and in hospital settings. The externship is an important part of the students’ education because it provides them with an opportunity to see which pharmacy career suits them the best. Some students divide their externship and do half in a retail setting and the other half in a hospital setting. Another perk that comes along with externships is that sometimes they lead to careers!
Over the next 5-10 years, schooling for pharmacy technicians is going to become very important. In 2020, anyone who wants to sit for the certification exam through PTCB will be required to go through a training program. This is a positive advancement in the field of pharmacy. Technicians will now be required to have knowledge of pharmacy and the medications they are interacting with every day. Pharmacy is an ever-changing and developing field and the demand for pharmacy technicians will only grow over the next 5-10 years.
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a very rewarding career! As a technician, you are constantly learning about medications, such as how they work in the body and what they are used for. Helping someone get the medication they need and knowing you made a difference in their life, even if it is a small difference, makes being a pharmacy technician very rewarding!