ST. PETERSBURG — Medicine is a vital part of the healthcare profession, and pharmacy technicians are instrumental in helping to provide various healing remedies. For those interested in entering this field, the St. Pete campus of Pinellas Technical College offers its Pharmacy Technician program.
The entire program takes approximately one year to complete and is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
The Basic Healthcare Worker course is the first segment of the program and serves as a general foundation for students who wish to enter the healthcare industry, and includes instruction on safety procedures, wellness and disease concepts, among other essential topics.
“The students learn basic CPR and first aid,” said Jeannie Pappas, one of the program’s two instructors. “They learn how to recognize domestic abuse and how to report it; they learn basic abbreviations and terminology. It gets them ready for their prospective health careers.”
The Pharmacy Technician courses that follow are broken down into three segments, and in the first course the students learn about identifying medical and legal considerations.
“That’s where the students learn about pharmacy law, the D.E.A., the F.D.A., and the Board of Pharmacy.” she said. “They learn how to handle narcotic drugs, how they’re ordered, how they’re disposed of, and so forth.”
Students also learn to read and interpret written prescriptions, and as part of their clerical duties, they actually put in patient profiles of patients’ medications, allergies and insurance information, Pappas said, adding that they also learn how to create prescription labels.
“There’s also inventory control where the student learns to purchase medications,” Pappas explained. “They learn about the wholesaler versus the direct purchasing from the manufacturer. The measurements and calculations technique is where they learn how to calculate medications appropriately and accurately. This includes weighing out and measuring, so they do quite an extensive amount of calculation there.”
It is in the second Pharmacy Technician course that the students do field work, Pappas explained, as they go for an outpatient clinical practicum where they practice in a real setting what they’ve learn in the classroom.
“We put them in a community pharmacy setting for 75 hours,” she said, “which is about three weeks, then they come back to the program and learn unit dose and packaging and delivering medication.”
By the final Pharmacy Technician course students participate in an institutional practicum, during which they put in 225 credit hours in a hospital setting. Not only is this a good place to practice what they’ve learned in the PTC classroom, but for many is the starting point to their careers.
“If they like the student and they do a good job there, they generally will hire them,” Pappas said.
The college does help with job placement, Pappas said, and confirmed that it is always a good time to get into the field.
“We have people that call us all the time looking for students,” she averred, listing Baycare, St. Anthony’s Hospital pharmacy and Morton Plant Hospital among others as employers to recent PTC graduates.
“There’s a lot of request and a lot of need out there,” said Pappas, who has 20 years of experience in the field, including 10 years at the Moffitt Cancer Center. “The pharmacy tech has to be licensed to work in the state. There is a huge need for technicians here.”
Students of the Pharmacy Technician program are required to have a high school diploma or G.E.D., but high school seniors can at least get an early start on the program while still in school.
“Right now we have a group of high school students,” Pappas said. “We take them in their senior year if they’re at least 17 years old, and they spend a few hours here as an elective, then they go back to their high school to their academics for the rest of the day. It gives them like a jump start so when they finish high school they can come back and finish as an adult, and they get full credit for what they completed in class.”
Pappas noted that the student’s ages vary, as some turn to the program in search of a different career path.
“I think the program is a wonderful opportunity for people who really want to get into this field,” Pappas stated. “It’s been a great career field for me and it’s been a wonderful second or third career for someone else who wants a change. People will always be sick and will always need medication, so there’s always a need for us.”
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.