As a college student I was looking for a job that could complement my school schedule. I came across a retail pharmacy technician position and thought that although I may need to have prior qualifications, I would apply anyway. I received the offer and was informed they would train me to get my certification. By this time I knew that I had a passion for a career in the medical field, so I figured that becoming a pharmacy technician could be helpful in providing me with some more medically-related exposure. A job as a technician in the pharmacy might be seen as a strange choice since I intend to become a doctor and not a pharmacist. But, I found my experience turned out to be relevant and is helping me build my candidacy for medical school.
One of the skills required to be a pharmacy technician is great attention to detail. Yes, the pharmacist I worked with had the ultimate responsibility to make sure the right medication was being dispensed, but it was my responsibility to care for the safety of the customer as well, because incorrect dosages could be fatal. I did this by correctly calculating the doctor’s written instructions. If a written prescription stated, Metformin 500mg sig: 1 tab po TID #270 tabs I knew it meant the customer should take the medication by mouth three times a day, which should equal a 90-day supply of medicine. I also made sure the National Drug Code number matched both the prescription label and the drug so that there were no mislabeled prescriptions. Additionally, I had to be aware of fake prescriptions. For instance, one time a customer asked me to fill two medications that, when paired together, didn’t make sense. I had picked up enough knowledge to see this as a warning sign, so I informed the pharmacist immediately. I know that eventually, in medical school, students receive pharmacology training, so I feel good knowing that I will already have knowledge of some helpful information and understanding of the subject matter.
As the world around us becomes more technologically advanced the healthcare field is no exception, another skill I needed and applied as a pharmacy technician was computer literacy. I used a computer system to find medications, research notes about customers, and resolve insurance matters. Even using the computer for our store’s inventory, which wasn’t the fun part of the job for me, was good experience, as doctors are spending more time inputting patients’ histories into a medical records systems. Through the computer skills I have obtained, I’m sure I feel more comfortable taking on that task in the future.
Most importantly, good interpersonal qualities are valued for pharmacy technicians. I interacted closely with people each day, including colleagues, in a fast-paced environment. I will never forget the time I was helping a customer when the person standing third in line collapsed. Immediately, I called 911 as other customers went to her aid. Before the emergency team arrived, she regained consciousness and was able to leave the store. While all that was happening, I made sure to calm the other customers and inform them that help was on the way or that the person was being cared for. But even on a typical day, during my interactions with people, I found that I could be a source of encouragement as they related to me what it was like dealing with their illnesses. Additionally, I learned how many errors could be avoided just by communicating efficiently. For instance, informing the pharmacist that a medication had already been filled the day before helped to reduce creating duplicates. In medical school, I know I will be working in teams and have to communicate with classmates, colleagues, and attendings about a patient’s history. Knowing how to communicate clearly and efficiently with my team will result in better care for the patient.
I’m finding out that not everyone’s path to a career in medicine is reached by the traditional route and I will have more of a story to tell because of my pharmacy experience. I have an understanding of the process by which people get their medication and how it can provide relevant experiences that can benefit me during medical school. I have cultivated skills that I will continue to strengthen and use as I work toward becoming a physician, such as attention to detail, computer literacy and interpersonal skills. And here, I was just looking for a job with a flexible schedule for during school, yet I ended up with one that can help me to prepare for applying to and attending medical school.
About Tyrone Lofton
Tyrone Lofton is an undergraduate student at Towson University, in Towson, Maryland. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry & Bioinformatics (MB3) on the biochemistry concentration track. He is a native of Washington, D.C., and a two time AmeriCorps Alum. While not studying for his classes, Tyrone enjoys reading, hiking, rock-climbing, and horseback riding. He also likes to spend time with his 15 year old mentee who he was partnered with through a non-profit that provides mentors to youth in the foster care system. He aspires to become a pediatrician.