Last month, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) named Linda Henson one of its CPhT of the Year finalists! “PTCB’s CPhT of the Year© Program honors and recognizes individual achievement in patient care, leadership, service, and mentorship as a way to encourage excellence and innovation among pharmacy technicians,” states PTCB’s press release (October 22, 2013). Linda is picture on the left, along with CPhTs Rico Powell, Master Sergeant Jessica Hughes, at a recognition event held in their honor in Washington, DC.
Thirty-two years ago, Henson began her career as a pharmacy technician. Today she is the Pharmacy Technician Manager at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital in Germantown, Tennessee. In this interview with PharmacyTechSchools.com, Henson describes how her career has expanded over the last three decades, her current professional duties (which includes mentoring and managing 30 pharmacy technicians and interns) and her passion for patient care. She also shares some valuable advice for those considering a career as a pharmacy technician.
PTS: What inspired you to start a career in pharmacology?
LH: I was working in a bakery for a Publix grocery store, when the manager of the drug store next to Publix recruited me. At first, I began working the front cash register and cosmetics department. Eventually, a position came open in the pharmacy and the manager asked me to work there one day a week. Mostly, I was only allowed to run the cash register and pull the filled prescriptions for the customers. As I gained the trust of the pharmacist, I was asked to pull the correct medications from the shelf and count out the correct amount for the pharmacist to check. Later, I was allowed to call physicians for renewals and package drugs into unit doses for a local nursing home. Thus began my career.
PTS: What kind of education/training did you complete?
LH: I began my career 32 years ago and was given on-the-job training. I do not recall any pharmacy technician programs available at that time. During my years in pharmacy, I have seen the role expand, as the pharmacists relied more and more on the pharmacy technicians. It really went from just a job to career over the years. Once I transitioned into a hospital pharmacy, my opportunities for new skills and growth really expanded. I learned to mix IV admixtures including chemotherapy, order drugs and supplies, restock automated dispensing cabinets, crash carts, anesthesia trays…
PTS: How did you work your way up to Pharmacy Technician Manager at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital?
LH: Basically, I gained the respect of my supervisors by going above and beyond my required duties. I was interested in expanding the role of pharmacy technicians and actively sought out opportunities for career development. I started as a staff technician and was promoted to inventory specialist due to my years of experience. I was able to perform all the duties required by an inventory specialist and began to take on more and more tasks. I was then promoted to lead technician where I maintained work flow, staff training, and schedules for the technician staff along with the duties of the inventory specialist.
As our department expanded and bed number increased, I was promoted to technician supervisor and trained another technician as inventory specialist, as I focused on more administrative tasks including, hiring, evaluations, terminations, disciplinary actions, and training/education. I was then promoted to pharmacy technician manager which still requires all the duties of supervisor plus an expanded role. Currently, I manage 30 pharmacy technicians and interns in all aspects of their management. I support business plans and strategies for pharmacy practice, assist with goal setting, and translate goals into operation tactics at the service level. I implement and monitor quality control programs to ensure safe medication storage and compliance. I ensure good working relationships with other departments. I also serve on multiple committees as pharmacy representative.
PTS: What does a typical day as a pharmacy technician manager look like?
LH: I generally, attend at least one meeting a day and sometimes up to four meetings. The meetings focus on standardization of our hospital system policies and procedures, environment of care/safety, regulatory readiness, quality and patient safety, and resuscitation practice. I put out a lot of fires both internally and externally, as a pharmacy liaison. Scheduling always is a challenge and I work to rearrange workflow to meet the needs of our department and patients. I provide coaching for the technicians and encourage teamwork. Many times, I have pharmacy technician students whom I preceptor and provide training opportunities. As a manager, I find myself working at my desk a lot. I create and analyze data utilizing excel spreadsheets and databases used by my organization. In addition, I monitor reports, scheduling, evaluations and keeping up with emails takes a lot of time
PTS: What are the rewards and challenges of your position?
LH: The rewards of my position are to be able to coach and mentor other technicians. It is very rewarding when I have technicians who want to further their careers and I can help them achieve their goals. The challenges are that it is not always easy to manage people. There are times when I have to make the tough decisions, which they may not always like. I try to coach them through the changes and it usually gets better with time. I have learned that I cannot always make everyone happy, though I continue to try my best to be fair and set a good example.
PTS: What was it like to write the CPhT certification exam and how did you prepare?
LH: I remember in 1995 when I sat for the CPhT certification exam that I was nervous. I was prepared and had years of experience, but there were some nerves. It felt good after I took the test because I was familiar with the subject matter and had studied from note cards that I had prepared. The pharmacists that I worked with supported me by quizzing me from time to time.
PTS: How did you feel when you found out you were a CPhT finalist of the year?
LH: I truly was honored to be named a finalist for CPhT of the year. I have had a long career as a pharmacy technician and enjoy my job. You really must have a passion for service to work in the pharmacy field. Keeping the patients as your primary focus helps to maintain safety for the patients and reminds you why you are working in the field. Patient and family centered care is primary to successful organizations, and technicians play a huge role in patient safety. Often times, pharmacy technicians aid in catching medication errors before they reach the patients.
PTS: What have been some of the stand-out highlights since you started your career as in pharmacy tech?
LH: I have been able to begin patient education programs in my hospital that help to expand the roles of our technicians. They now visit patients to disseminate valuable information. Also, I have been able to give presentations at pharmacy technician conventions to share the good work we are doing in my organization.
PTS: What advice would you give those considering a career as a pharmacy technician?
LH: My advice to those considering a career as a pharmacy technician is that you must be in it for the right reasons. While it can be a highly paid technical career, the most important aspect is that you have a heart for helping patients and working with medications. You have to be detailed and precise in what you do, as you are working under the pharmacist’s license. The pharmacists need to be able to trust and respect your abilities. Becoming a certified technician helps with this, but it is up to you to keep errors to a minimum. You have to treat every patient as though they were one of your own family members and provide the care that you would want provided to you or your family member.
PTS: Is there anything you would like to add?
LH: This is the right time to begin a career as a pharmacy technician. Changes are on the horizon for requirements on becoming a certified technician and the field is growing and always in need of great people.