Highlighting Black Health Care Workers: Technicians Discuss Diverse Representation


Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy technician leadership from UPMC Presbyterian discuss the importance of diverse representation.

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.

tilialucida / stock.adobe.com

tilialucida / stock.adobe.com

Matthew Lauderdale: In terms of having more people who are minorities within the healthcare field, it really does help with the perspective that there is, in order to really allow more of us—more of anybody with any kind of background, really—to come in and feel as though not only can they have a job and work that job, but they also are listened to and heard, and they're also able to really thrive in their position, be able to see growth, no matter who their boss is. It really does help, being able to have, you know, other people of your background, but also have people support you no matter what your background is, and be able to see you for who you are and not just being Black or Hispanic or Asian or whatever else. I mean, it's welcoming, especially here. I feel like I've had a lot of good experiences here with people, so far. And I know it's only going to continue because everybody's very welcoming with one another, and we all make sure to really hear one another out on a lot of different things.

Taivion Voynes: Whenever we were doing like the vaccine clinics, I know there were a bunch of people that would talk to even like Al or even some of the other pharmacists, and they wouldn't be very trusting because they're a person of color. So, they, you know, they don't always buy into stuff like that. So, whenever they would come up to talk to me, and I will break it down for a little bit better or put it in simpler terms, they would get it a little bit more and they would be more willing to get the shot or be, sometimes, even more excited. There was some times there would be kids running up to the line to get a shot because like now, they want it. So, I think it's really good for stuff like that.

But also, when it comes to leadership, I would say Miss Brenda has been by far my best supervisor. I always tell her, like, she's not a supervisor. I mean, she's more like a mom. She brings that comfort, that home feeling to work. So, it's like I'm not even here working, I'm just doing a task with a bunch of people I know and, you know, we're enjoying our time at the end of the day. So, I believe it's really good to implement a lot more people of color and minorities into the healthcare field.

Nakesha Tyler: I agree. We are—just to piggyback off of what you had said—it’s about being relatable. Like I said before, having somebody that may have not gone through the same things that you, the same background, but just knowing, that I can look to my left or my right, and there's somebody who knows, what I could have gone through or what, or just being able to relate to that person off of experience. So, there was a situation, kind of sort of the same as yours, where there was a lady who was adamant about not receiving a vaccine as well. And I had to take her to the side, you know, and talk to her as well. And so just having that type of ability to be able to talk someone down, because she was not having it. But to make her comfortable, you know, enough and I let her know, I have it I had it too, and I’m still here, I’m still living.

But just the comfortability, I think, of having somebody who is relatable to you in the healthcare field speaks volumes. And because there's not a whole lot of us in the healthcare field, it makes it a lot better when—because I'm not gonna lie, when I see a sister walk in and she has on her white coat, I am rooting for her, you know. Because I know what it took to get there. So, I just, I applaud anyone, any person of color, who goes the distance, because it was a scary time for all of us. COVID was scary.

That unknown that—I was nervous and I know you guys were, you know, and to not know, that's a scary thing. And so, with people of color being untrusting because of things that have happened in the past in health care to people of color, it makes people—some people don't want to go to the hospital, some people don't, won't take their medicine, they won't go see their doctors—but just being able to be in that environment and having conversations and saying that, you know, you have to take care of you, and I'm letting you know I am a healthcare, a person of color who works in health care, and this is what you need to do. You still have to take care of yourself. So, that’s big.

Brenda Russell: And I think it's also amazing because being in some of those communities, you make and build relationships to some of the individuals that you give those vaccines to. And it’s something when they remember who you are, outside of the vaccine clinic, so you know that you’ve had a big impact for them to even remember your name.

Taivion Voynes: Some of my best vaccine clinic experiences actually happened in my own community, to where like, a lot of people like even my family members, they came up, they got the vaccine. Some of my friends would come up. Like, some of those experiences, where I got to talk them into it and help them out, were like the best for me.

Brenda Russell: So the advice I would give new students or technician coming into pharmacy to continue the journey would be to get involved, to learn to ask questions, to be a part of pharmacy—not kind of stand in the background and not do anything—to kind of really step up and get involved. There are opportunities to sit back and talk to our pharmacists. They're very knowledgeable. Even talking to other technicians, because we've gotten some technicians that have come from other departments that didn't know anything about pharmacy, but have gotten into pharmacy and really like it. So, I think just letting individuals know how to or to just telling them to get involved. Be a voice, learn all that you can learn, and don't stop. That would be my advice to new students or pharmacy technicians coming into the pharmacy. What about you, what would be your advice?

Nakesha Tyler: My advice kind of piggybacks off of what you basically said, just getting yourself involved, not standing in the shadows, making yourself known, being a high performer. Sometimes you get, sometimes you are looked at even when you don't even know that you're being looked at. You know, when I started off, this was just a job that I was serious about. I had never worked in a hospital before. And I didn't know that people were looking at me. I didn't know that they were watching what I was doing. I didn't know that I was making a difference. I just came to work every day, and it was important to me. And I just knew that I had a passion for this. I had been doing it for so many years, and this was what it was. So just loving what you do, embracing what you do, wanting to just be the best of yourself that you can be. You know, that's pretty much my advice.

Matthew Lauderdale: So, I guess any advice that I would want to give somebody who would want to come into pharmacy in any capacity would be just, you have to come in, and you have to be dedicated not only to the work that you're putting in but to the cause. You're here to help patients and to make sure that them and their families are as well off as they can be within their situation. Because, at the end of the day, it's really all about not only the work that you put in, but the effect that it has on other people. So, a lot of the work that I do every day, I make sure that no matter what I do, that I'm considering the patient rather than considering, I guess, more so how easy I can make it. It doesn’t matter how easy it is. It's not supposed to be. It's about putting in all the work that you can to make sure that you're trying your hardest and you end up satisfied with your work and satisfied with the fact that you're helping somebody. You know, at least that's the advice I would give.

Serena Woods-Wilson: The advice I would give to someone coming in is to be open to learning, open to receiving information, open to criticism, and to put your best foot forward in whatever you do. Also, find an ally. I was asked a couple years ago to be a pharmacy buddy. When Matt came in, I reached out to him to let him know that I was a pharmacy buddy, and, like, if he had any questions or situations that he can come to me, if he had a problem. But, for someone coming in, they just have to be ready to receive the information and knowledge being given to them.

Taivion Voynes: For anyone coming into pharmacy, I will say they hit mostly all of the points. I would say definitely be able to accept knowledge. Be friendly, make friends. There’s a lot of people down there, a lot of moving parts. Be friendly, be coachable on all of the different tasks that you're able to do. And mainly, just go for it. Like, I know there's a lot of people that ask me about my job in particular, and they just think I count pills all day. And I'm like, that's—I never do that. So, it's like, just go for it if you're interested and see how it works out.

Celeste Johnson: What my advice would be, to let them know that we are a team. That we're all here together to help each other out. To know if there's any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. There’s no dumb question, or if you have to ask the same question over and over again until you get it, then do so. My advice would be to them is to get all the knowledge that you need. Because each individual position inside the pharmacy that we do is different. So, the knowledge is different. I would encourage them to put their best foot forward, you know. And don't be afraid, you know what I mean? Because we're all here to help out. We're all here to make you better. We're all here to make each other better.

And to just be an example, because there's examples before you, either as women of color or not, because we're all here together to prove, to make it better for everybody around us, not just as being women and men of color, but our own coworkers. We’re all here together to strive to do, to make the pharmacy a better place to work for whoever comes to the door. They will see that. They will feel the genuineness of us. And if you have a problem, just feel free to talk to somebody. Don’t allow, if you have an issue, don't allow it to marinate too long because we don't want that. And I will just tell them, we're here as a group, we have great people and the longer you’ll be here you will see that. We will show you that. We have role models, we have an excellent group of people that help us out, starting with our administrator and Al and on down the line. So, it's a lot of professionals, I would say. Because that's what we are. We are professionals and we lead by example. That's what would be my advice.

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