Technicians Perform Vital Role in Academia
Improved workflow and optimal patient outcomes occur when technicians serve as vital members of the health care team, across the continuum of care.
Pharmacy technicians perform an advanced, vital role in educating new generations of technicians to provide exemplary patient care in all areas of pharmacy practice. During my 45 years in various practice settings (my first position in the field was held while completing my bachelor of science in biology), a fervent desire to share all that I had been blessed to learn became a burning passion.
Recently, I was asked to describe the career path for technicians in academia and in other areas. There were pivotal moments that enriched my journey.
My first academic institution was a proprietary national chain’s pharmacy technician program. The requirements for employment were a minimum of 5 years’ verifiable experience in the field and national certification. The 9-month part-time diploma and 15-month associate of applied science program content were provided by the national corporate office. Students graduated from the program after completing 7 technician courses, a professional development/student success course, and an externship.
Much as I thought I would never be an educator, it was exhilarating because I was teaching my passion. What an epiphany it was when I realized that I was not merely training technicians within my company, which is different than teaching them. Rather, I was educating technicians to work in numerous roles for countless corporate chains, health systems, and independent practice settings across the nation. It was mind-blowing and greater than my initial dream.
Since 2012 it has been a blessing and a privilege to work in a public school system, where individuals must have a minimum of 6 years’ verifiable experience and hold national certification. Higher salaries are offered for higher levels of education.
The 9-month full-time adult program begins in August and ends in May or June. We also have a 2-year, part-time high school program, with a curriculum developed by the Florida Department of Education.
Other options to enter academia have included Spouses to Teachers and Troops to Teachers, which provide resources to help aspiring educators with military affiliation obtain temporary teaching certificates while preparing for full professional certification.1,2 In Florida, recent legislation passed to expedite a veterans’ program to help address the teacher shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because requirements to teach vary among academic entities and states, individuals should research how they might qualify. National certification is also required.
Along my journey, I attended the 2008 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida.
There, pharmacist Jan Keresztes, PharmD, who is still the coordinator of the pharmacy technician program at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois, said in response to a continuing-education session presenter speaking about technician career ladders and training technicians, “You train animals. You educate people.” Her powerful statement was so impactful that it elevated my commitment to bring more than mere training to my classroom. My students understand the “why” concepts and theories behind merely what to do and how to do it.
Meeting Christopher Jerry, president and CEO of the Emily Jerry Foundation, at that same event added another dimension to my passion.1 Little Emily lost her life because of a technician’s error that the pharmacist did not catch.3 It was her last round of chemotherapy for “extra measure” after a cancerous mass had been eradicated. Learning about tragedy this in 2006 inspired me to teach critical thinking. Meeting Emily's father in 2008 created a deeper connection of commitment and passion to teach students to care for patients.
Being active in state affiliates of the American Pharmacists Association and ASHP also augmented the classroom experience. Both curricula have required that federal and state law be taught. For many years in Florida, a group of dedicated pharmacy technicians has assisted in the process of crafting the Florida Administrative Code, as pertains to the role of technicians. As state members of the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the Florida Pharmacy Association (FPA), we have used our voices to express the needs for our specific careers.
As retired FPA Executive Vice President and CEO Michael Jackson, BPharm, CPh, often says, “You are either at the table, or you are on the menu.” Attend state board of pharmacy meetings to be part of industry solutions.
In 2015, I had the honor of being named the 2015 Next-Generation Pharmacist Pharmacy Technician of the Year.
This annual award has been sponsored by Parata Systems and Pharmacy Times® since 2010.4 Throughout my years in the pharmacy profession—including academia—increasing my abilities, knowledge, and skills via on-the-job projects and volunteering in the community and at work enhanced my employers’ procedures and processes and my own productivity, generating increased income and streamlining workflow.
My family, other educators and technicians, pharmacists, and pharmacy stakeholders from across the nation have made a great impression on my career, leading me to strive to bring all the knowledge, professionalism, and skills at my disposal to each of my students every day. All this is in the hopes of my graduates providing “pharmtastic” care. Improved workflow and optimal patient outcomes occur when technicians serve as vital members of the health care team, across the continuum of care. What a blessing it has been teaching pharmacy technicians.
About The Author
Verender Gail Brown, CPhT, RPhT, cMTM, the 2015 Next-Generation Pharmacist Technician of the Year honoree, is a pharmacy technician educator at Osceola Technical College in St Cloud, Florida.
1. Military spouse teacher certification. Military State Policy Source. Accessed August 11, 2022. https://statepolicy.military-onesource.mil/key-issue/military-spouse-teacher-certification/2021
2. Troops to teachers: from the military to the classroom. Accredited Schools Online. Updated April 27, 2022. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/education-teaching-degree/troops-to-teachers/#tttmission
3. Medication error in the hospital kills two-year-old Emily Jerry. YouTube page. Accessed August 28, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watchv=9jmULQ_m04o
4. 13th annual Next-Generation Pharmacist Awards. Next Generation Pharmacist. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://nextgenpharmacist.com