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Expert Insights on Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

By November 23, 2021August 18th, 2022No Comments
pharmacy technician course

There has been a near-doubling of the number of pharmacists in Ontario over the last 10 years – with an aging population and an increased demand for pharmaceuticals, an opportunity exists and is expanding. Pharmacy technicians are in demand, as they support the pharmacist by helping to fill prescriptions, measuring and mixing medications, retrieving a patient’s medical history and even working directly with doctor’s offices. The benefits to exploring this exciting and dynamic career are vast, but don’t take our word for it. We had the opportunity to discuss Anderson College’s Pharmacy Technician Diploma program with one of our resident experts, Basanti and she shares all you need to know about the opportunity, the program and how you can take the next steps in exploring the possibilities.

Watch Basanti’s interview here:

Introduction

My name is Basanti. I am a Registered Pharmacy Technician and Program Coordinator of the Pharmacy Technician program at Anderson College. I started as a Pharmacy Assistant in one of the community pharmacies and then after getting my license as a registered technician, I moved to one of the specialty pharmacies. We used to make IV drugs for home care patients and hospitals there. Then I decided to pursue academics because I liked this field. This led to my teaching at Anderson College. And, from there, I was promoted to Program Coordinator.

What is the Pharmacy Technician program about?

The Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program is a 43-week program. And in that timeframe, we teach and prepare our students to be registered pharmacy technicians. We offer them the skills that they need to work in a community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, long-term care pharmacy, and any other pharmacy field. And they are also ready to write the licensing exams required by Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP).

What will students learn and what can they expect from this program?

They will learn all the skills necessary for them to work in pharmacy settings. We teach them the theory behind all the work they will have to do in various pharmacy settings. And also, we will prepare them for their licensing exams. They will have to write the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) exam and one exam that’s for jurisprudence, offered by the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP). We prepare them for that exam, and we also prepare them for the skills they will need to work in the field right immediately after they graduate.

Can you tell us more about the accredition of the program by Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP)? What does this mean for our students and how is it beneficial to them?

In Canada to teach any pharmacist or pharmacy technician, you have to be accredited by CCAPP. Our program is accredited by Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP). This means our graduates can write the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) exam, they can write the Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) exam that’s required for licensing and they can be registered pharmacy technicians. Not all colleges are accredited, meaning those graduates cannot sit those exams to become a pharmacy technician. They would be able to work as a pharmacy assistant, but not eligible to write those licensing exams. If you want to be a pharmacy technician, you want to attend an accredited college. It’s a must if that’s your goal and it’s a huge benefit for our Anderson students. It also means our program and the courses are held to the highest standard, and this too helps our graduates be the best they can be.

What is the difference between Pharmacy Assistant and Pharmacy Technician?

There is a huge difference between pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. Pharmacy technician was started in 2010 in Ontario, and we started our program in 2012. So, we are one of the firsts, from the beginning, in producing pharmacy technicians. It was started because the pharmacist role has been expanded. So now pharmacists need to do more counseling, which means they need more help from those who are accountable. Pharmacy technicians are accountable for their work; they can sign off on the prescription, which means they can dispense the prescription. After the pharmacist does the clinical check, they don’t need the pharmacist. They will do all the technical check in, they can dispense the prescription, they can do the independent double checking and sign off on the prescription. The other thing is, it’s very new, now pharmacy technicians can also administer the COVID-19 vaccine. So, with regard to responsibility and role, pharmacy technicians have an important role and a lot of responsibility. Also in regard to the salary, they will earn more than double after they become a pharmacy technician than what they were making as pharmacy assistant. It’s rewarding in both ways.

What fears do students have when they join the program?

Every student is different. Some of the students, they know about the whole process and they’re scared about the final exam which is the PEBC exam. Some of the students, they ask me questions about the fact that we are a fast-track program. In public school, it’s a two-year program, so they are little scared about how they can cover the material in 43 weeks. My answer to them is, you need to work hard compared to your counterparts who are doing the program in two years, but the benefit is that you will be done in 43 weeks and be licensed and start earning. So, the work you did while doing the program, it will suffice later.

Can you tell us more about what students do in the lab/clinic?

We just revealed our new lab in the beginning of 2021. It’s a state-of-the-art lab now. We have a simulated community lab and hospital lab. In the community lab, students learn how to enter prescriptions in the software. We teach them KROLL software; we have installed it on 20 computers so our whole cohort has access. They learn how to take verbal prescriptions from the doctors and other prescribers; they learn how to make the prescription ready for patients. They also practice in compounding labs, where they learn how to compound capsules, how to compound suspension solutions, suppositories, chap stick, etc.. And in our hospital pharmacy, students can practice various techniques so they will learn how to make trial drugs that are administered through IV and how to interview patients. Our labs ensure that we can effectively prepare our students for when they go to work in the industry after they graduate.

What part of the program/practical training do students enjoy the most?

It depends on each student. It also depends on their personality. If someone is a people person, they will love to work in community pharmacy, which means they will love the part with community lab. If someone is a person who loves to work in a team, they will love to work in compounding pharmacy or hospital pharmacy, and they will love the hospital pharmacy lab part the most. If someone is a person who likes to work by themselves, then they’ll like to work in specialty pharmacy where they have to compound the drugs by themselves. There is something for every type of student.

Who can take this program? Do you need any particular skills or past experience in healthcare to join the program?

The basic requirement for the program to get enrolled is that they need to have grade 11 or 12, math, biology and chemistry. If they have those things in their high school, then they are eligible to be enrolled into the program. Definitely, if they have a healthcare background, it will help them to learn faster, but they don’t need it. We train from the beginning, so even if they don’t have any experience, they will be taught everything in the program. And they will learn it and we’ll ensure they’re ready to go to the industry and to write the licensing exams.

Take the “Anderson College Pharmacy Technician Career Discovery Quiz”

How can graduates become regulated pharmacy technicians in Ontario?

In Ontario, they have to write the PEBC exam, it’s a national exam so it works for all provinces in Canada. Then they will have to sit a jurisprudence exam that’s given by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. After that, they also need structured practical training. That’s also offered by the Ontario College of Pharmacists. And students need to get a professional liability license and they can register with OCP. Registered Pharmacy Technicians is a protected title so no one else can use that title unless they get licensed with OCP.

What job opportunities can graduates of this program expect?

It’s a very diverse industries so it depends on the graduate’s personality and what they like, but there is an opportunity for every personality type – community for those students who enjoy connecting with community, hospital or long-term pharmacy if a student enjoys a team environment. Or if a student enjoys working solo, compounding drugs on their own, there is also the work to be done in a specialty pharmacy. Students can also work in insurance companies. It’s a very diverse market of opportunity and, best of all, because pharmacy technicians are in short supply and there’s a huge need, there are many jobs available for graduates. Even if graduates are not yet licensed, often pharmacy owners want to hire them and train them. And by the time they get licensed, they’re on board and can retain them. There’s never been a better time to enter this industry.

Do you have any word of advice for future students?

For the future student, what I want to say is, again, this is the right time to get your education as a pharmacy technician. The market is in short supply and pharmacy technicians are in demand. If you take this program right now and work hard to get your license, there’s a very high chance that you will get hired quickly. This career is also an essential one, you can make a powerful difference in the life of another person. As an example, when I used to work for a specialty pharmacy, we made total parenteral nutrition for a three-year-old boy. He was waiting for some transplantation, and he couldn’t eat anything for three years, since he was born. So, we used to combine all the nutrition in a bag in pharmacy and give it to him. And his mom, every Christmas, she would bring the boy to the pharmacy to thank us. This career is incredibly rewarding in that way, and it’s a critical position. You are saving someone’s life, you are helping them to manage their drugs, you’re helping them to manage their health, so I think this is the best career you could choose.

Pharmacy technician is an advanced career, one that requires you to take pharmacy technician courses and obtain a pharmacy technician certificate. In Ontario, to be a pharmacy technician, you must also be a licensed. This comes with the benefit of regulation and credibility allowing you, and your customers, to know your work and service is in alignment with the highest standards.

The benefits of exploring pharmacy tech colleges and pharmacy technician programs are far reaching. Not the least of which are the financial rewards of shifting from an entry-level pharmacy assistant to a pharmacy technician – your salary can double! But it absolutely matters where you choose to go to school. Anderson’s Pharmacy Technician Certification online program was one of the first of its kind and, as you can see by hearing directly from Basanti, our instructors are industry experts with a passion for inspiring and empowering students.

To explore your career possibilities, contact one of our Admissions Advisors today and book an express appointment.

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