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Home Infusion Offers Technicians Good Work Setting

Kate Traynor

Home infusion pharmacies offer pharmacy technicians regular hours and room for professional growth, say those who work in the field.

"I can’t really think of a thing I don’t like," said Janice L. Berne, CPhT, about her work at the North Mississipi Medical Center’s infusion service in Tupelo.

Berne, who started her job at the infusion service about four and a half years ago, said the work hours—6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.—had initially attracted her to the position.

"I worked retail for 13 years, and I was burning out," Berne said. After moving to Mississippi, she worked first at the medical center and then moved to the infusion pharmacy when a position opened there.

Berne said she spends about three quarters of her day making intravenous (i.v.) solutions, which is her favorite part of the job.

"We...make the medication here, and then we ship it out to our outlying home health offices to be delivered to the patient by the nurses," she said. "I schedule everything to be shipped...[including] supplies like i.v. tubing and filters and needles and syringes. We ship antibiotics, TPN [total parenteral nutrition]. You name it, we ship it."

Jeff Yeast, CPhT, does similar work in central and eastern Kentucky for Optioncare of Lexington, a branch of the national infusion pharmacy chain Optioncare Inc. Like Berne, Yeast said he enjoys his work.

"It’s a relaxed atmosphere," he said. "The hours are good—generally our official hours are 8:30 to 5:00, Monday through Friday. You can’t beat that."

Yeast, who received his pharmacy training while in the military, said that factoring home delivery into the medication-supply equation makes infusion pharmacy work different from the preparation of i.v. solutions for hospital use.

"Usually, we try to deliver about a seven-day supply that we make at a time, unlike mixing in a conventional hospital pharmacy," he said. "You can’t be delivering to the same place 100 miles away every other day."

Yeast said his pharmacy serves about 150 patients. "The majority of our business is probably antibiotics," he said. "We also do pain management, TPN. We do enteral therapy."

As with Berne, Yeast’s duties extend beyond preparing i.v. solutions. "I mix the drugs but I also manage the purchasing for the office," he said.

Working at the infusion pharmacy has given Yeast chances to expand his job skills.

"I came into this job knowing nothing about computers," he said. During his seven and a half years at Optioncare, Yeast has learned enough about the technology to serve as the facility’s computer network administrator and develop the office’s Web site.

Both Berne and Yeast advised technicians interested in home infusion pharmacy work to seek certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. "You need to be certified to work in this position," Berne said.

Yeast said good mathematical skills are also a must for infusion pharmacy work.

"With i.v.’s," he said, "just about everything is math related—from calculating what you’re going to mix specifically to programming i.v. and pain management pumps, and deciding the fill volumes and the rates on those pumps. So having good math skills is certainly a plus."

Yeast was enthusiastic about introducing technicians to the field of home infusion pharmacy. "I think anyone who’s interested in something a little different ought to look into it," he said.