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Opportunities Abound for Technicians

Kate Traynor

Now is the perfect time to be a pharmacy technician, says Louise A. Petroka, CPhT, coordinator of the pharmacy technician program for Gateway Community College in North Haven, Conn.

The national pharmacist shortage and the expanded clinical role of pharmacists, says Petroka, give pharmacy technicians new opportunities to get involved in patient care.

"I think that as the pharmacists move out into clinical settings and into pharmaceutical care," she says, "the technicians will be pulled along with them."

According to Petroka, clinically trained pharmacy technicians are already in demand. Most of her students are hired as soon as—or even before—they finish their clinical training.

"Sometimes the hard part is getting the clinical site to wait until [the students] actually graduate," she says. But once hired, "I think they can absolutely do an effective job," Petroka says of her students.

Even people who don’t pursue clinical positions can have a rewarding career as a pharmacy technician, says Petroka. Some technicians may enjoy preparing intravenous (i.v.) admixtures, and others prefer drug distribution. In fact, before she started teaching, Petroka spent 13 years working in a hospital pharmacy's i.v. admixture room.

Petroka enjoyed her work at the hospital, and she enjoyed learning. "The fact that you had people coming in, giving seminars on different drugs—how they worked—was enough to keep me stimulated," she says. "You just pick up a huge knowledge base."

The skills learned by pharmacy technicians, notes Petroka, can also be the springboard to other health care fields. "A lot of my students," she says, "work as technicians for a while then they move on into nursing." At least one student, says Petroka, became a physician’s assistant.

Often, says Petroka, when students begin their technician training, "they don’t realize there are other places you can go with it."