Celebrating Black History Month: Technicians Discuss Their Career Path


Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy technician leadership from UPMC Presbyterian discuss how they became pharmacy technicians in health-system pharmacies.

This video features staff from UPMC Presbyterian: Matthew Lauderdale, pharmacy technician; Celeste Johnson, pharmacy technician intermediate, Taivion Voynes, pharmacy technician, Brenda Russell, CPhT, technical supervisor, Nakesha Tyler, CPhT, technical supervisor; and Serena Woods-Wilson, senior pharmacy technician.

Matthew Lauderdale: Essentially, the reason I ended up becoming a pharmacy technician in the first place was because I ended up getting an opportunity to work at the vaccine clinic with a few of the people that were involved with the pharmacy, and they took notice of the hard work that I was putting in. I appreciated that, and they decided to offer job to me, so I decided to take.

Celeste Johnson: Mine started when I worked for UPMC McKeesport hospital. I worked in the radiology department first and then I wanted to do something different to better myself. I bid on the position as a pharmacy technician back then, and as I was doing that, they did a certification accredited with the UPMC Presbyterian and so that's how I got involved with the pharmacy technician program, and that's how I ended up here.

Taivion Voynes: For me, my journey was a little different. I started off as an intern. I did my internship for school at the vaccination clinic as well, just like that. They basically saw how much of a hard worker and how dedicated I was to the whole program and everything we were doing. They offered me a position to be a pharmacy technician, I guess like the love and like the support they had behind. I appreciate that.

Brenda Russell: My journey started back at St. Francis Hospital, which we all know now is Children's Hospital, so that I worked there for 12 years, prior to transferring here to UPMC Presbyterian. As a lot of you already know, I've been here for 26 years. My journey has been good and different things that I've learned along the way. With my journey, it actually has helped me get to the point that I am now as a supervisor. So that was my journey.

Nakesha Tyler: Mine was a little different. I started out working [in health services], which was a [pharmacy benefits manager (PBM)], which I will answer calls about copays and prescription coverage and different things like that. One day we took a tour, and it was a mail order pharmacy that was also a part of the organization. I wanted to know what the people were doing because they were filling medications, they are doing different things. So I ask my supervisor about it, and then he explained to me what they were doing, that they were considered a pharmacy technician. He said that there were programs out there that you could go back to school and actually pursue becoming that, so that is what I did.

I started out at Duff's Business Institute. I graduated. I worked at a compounding pharmacy, Hebrews pharmacy, which is actually down the street from UPMC Presbyterian Then, I actually was able to be to instruct at the actual school that I graduated from. The school was closing, so I came into Presbyterian looking to do an externship to check on one of my students, who was doing your externship here, and actually had a conversation with Brenda. We were supposed to be discussing my externship student, but we started talking about me because I was going to be jobless. So I was trying to figure out what I was going to do, where I was going to be, and so you just never know. One thing about pharmacy is that it's very small, and you can build relationships with people, and that's what actually happened and that's what actually landed me here at UPMC Presbyterian, and I've been here for 7 years.

Serena Woods-Wilson:[I started in] pharmacy [sic] in 2010. I was actually working on the health insurance side during Medicare copayments and Medicare plans. I got interested in pharmacy after having several federal conversations with patients about their medications and affordability of medications. I dropped down to part-time status, pursued school part-time in the evening, graduated from Everest Institute. From there, I've actually done a lot of done a lot. I’ve done long-term care, retail, mail order, compounding. I ended up coming to Presbyterian after all of that, working through several temp agencies, and then retail for a long time.

Taivion Voynes: being a pharmacy technician, inspiring my career path by more so, assuring me that this is like the field I want to be in. I went to school to get my Bachelor's in health science, which I have, and I want to become a doctor with that. Just by getting this hospital feel and this environment, assuring me like this is what I definitely want to do. It's the environment I like to be in.

Matthew Lauderdale: Well, I guess for me, somebody without pharmacy background, I saw more so as an opportunity to learn and grow in an unfamiliar field and be able to work on some of my other skills, and be able to really assess my own growth, in order to become a more well-rounded person.

Brenda Russell: It inspired my career path because I've went through a number of steps to get where I’m at. I came in as a pharmacy technician. From there, I went through being a pharmacy trainer to now a pharmacy tech supervisor. There's a bit of a ladder of steps that you have to take to kind of get where you need to be. I feel that I am there, but there's so much more that we can do, or that I can do, on my path. That has led me to being able to learn a lot of things along the way that will help you prepare for these career ladders and different positions in pharmacy. It's not just being a pharmacy technician, there's so much more to it.

Celeste Johnson: As far as the career path, I changed my career path to being a pharmacy technician. I went from studying to be a registered nurse, to going into this field. I had a lot of thoughts about it. I wanted to do this to see where it will take me. I've gotten to the place to, where in my path, I wanted to be a traveling pharmacy technician. That is one of my career goals to meet that. I'm here to explore and to learn all that I need to know to put my foot forward into my career path. I've also been able to take in a lot to be mentored to put myself forward as far as learning from Nakesha and learning things from Brenda, so I will be able to carry on what I need to do and being a success for the long-term and move in that direction, with the help of the pharmacy technicians and the pharmacists as well. They helped me. I mean I say a lot, I do a lot, but I watch, and I want to learn to success. I went from coming in here without any experience, but I've graduated this far as the immediate. I took steps to that, and I just look forward to doing that and going in that pathway.

Serena Woods-Wilson: Pharmacy was not my original career path. I always knew that I wanted to work in a career that made a difference, so my original career path was education. I ended up [going into] pharmacy later after working on the insurance side. The 3 years I was working as a pharmacy technician and other jobs, I still was a trainer. I still had the teaching aspect, as well as the pharmacy technician, of all ways, had a search for knowledge. That's why I went into the retail, long-term care, and mail order. I wanted to be well rounded. My career path has been a journey. A journey that has been exciting and knowledgeable for me, and I want to continue to grow.

Nakesha Tyler: I think the biggest inspiration for me is the building of relationships and the leadership aspect of it. I never expected to become a supervisor. That wasn't my dream, but it was something that happened, but I'm embracing it. I love the people that I work alongside of, that's what inspires me every day. That's what gets me up every morning and ready to come in here and do my job, especially on the days that it's challenging because, I call us a “Pharmily” because we spend a lot of time together more time than we do with our regular families. For me, that's the inspiration that has kind of driven that career path, the people that are working alongside of and leading them, and inspiring them to be the best that they can be, and helping them with their journey. I feel like that's what does it for me.

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