Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas started its pharmacy technician program the fall of 2012. A few months ago, it was announced JCCC’s program received six-year accreditation with the ASHP (American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists). This speaks to the pharmacy tech program’s success—one or two-year accreditation is a lot more common than a full six years, especially the first time round.
Terry L. Rehder, PharmD is the director of JCCC’s pharmacy technician program. In this interview he describes his career path and more about the school’s program, and shares some guidance for prospective pharmacy techs.
PTS: What inspired you to become a pharmacist?
TR: I was a medic in the military and spent some time in the pharmacy department of the dispensaries assigned. I also worked with two military pharmacists who served as role models and encouraged me to pursue pharmacy as a career. I was fascinated by the hundreds of medications available used to treat the various maladies people were suffering with. I was curious about medication discovery and effectiveness and decided that would be my field of study.
PTS: Did you work in pharmacy settings as you pursued your PharmD?
TR: I spent four years in the military as a medic and pharmacy technician. I did construction and bartending work while in school; money was the driving factor for employment and pharmacy internship positions did not pay enough to allow me to support a family and cover college expenses. I did complete a two year clinical pharmacy residency in Cincinnati while attending classes at the University of Cincinnati. Residency requirements left no time for any outside employment.
PTS: What are some of the positions you held before becoming the Director of the Pharmacy Technician program at Johnson County Community College?
TR: My first position after receiving my doctorate was with the College of Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska. I served as a practicing clinical pharmacist and an assistant professor. After five years I was awarded a leave of absence to work with the FDA as a medical review officer on a special project. I worked with the FDA for two years then accepted a position with Harper-Grace Hospitals in Detroit, Michigan as an associate director of clinical services concurrent with Wayne State University as an adjunct associate professor of pharmacy practice. I left Detroit after six years and joined Marion Laboratories as a research scientist in clinical research, ultimately ending my practitioner career after 15 years. The same month I officially resigned my research position, I joined the faculty at JCCC with the Pharmacy Technician Training Program.
PTS: What makes Johnson County Community College’s pharmacy technician program stand out from others and merit six-year ASHP-accreditation.
TR: First, I would say the faculty. Although a small group, three committed, over-achieving pharmacy technicians and one pharmacist, they are dedicated to the task of teaching individuals to become pharmacy technicians with the ultimate goal of improving the profession. Second would be the support of the college administrators, including Penny Shaffer, Program Director from Health and Human Services, allowing us to expand and teach as we believe necessary. Finally, the college facilities available are unparalleled with respect to classrooms, laboratories and contemporary equipment.
PTS: What have been some other highlights for students and staff during the program’s first two years?
TR: The class size has increased each year. Our first class consisted of three individuals with all three graduating and becoming nationally certified. The second class is on track to graduate nine students and our third class entering now consists of nine students with another attending part-time. We have added one additional faculty member and expanded our Advisory Board. We have also expanded the number of externship sites to which the students will have access and we are planning to become involved in national technician training organizations. We are experiencing rapid growth and are encouraged by local pharmacy practitioners to meet the growing need for pharmacy technical support.
PTS: What do you like most about your role as director of the program?
TR: Working with young faculty and students is always rewarding. That idea coupled with the knowledge that we are fulfilling a need regarding the profession is most exciting for me.
PTS: What advice do you have for potential pharmacy technician students?
TR: Investigate pharmacy practice as a career and understand that the responsibilities of pharmacy technicians are going to grow as the pharmacist becomes a more active health care provider/physician extender. The role of the pharmacy technician is going to become more important and thus more satisfying to the individual. This is a career that will be exciting and rewarding throughout your entire working life.
PTS: What makes a good pharmacy technician?
TR: Awareness that the service provided ultimately assists people in need, people who are ill. With the aforementioned in mind, it is obvious that attention to detail is of prime importance.
PTS: How is the pharmacy technician profession evolving?
TR: As mentioned earlier, the role of the pharmacist is evolving allowing the pharmacist to become more involved in patient care. Laws have recently been passed in California allowing pharmacists to examine, diagnose and prescribe. This trend will ultimately spread across the country as the demand for healthcare increases. As the pharmacist leaves the confines of the pharmacy to work more closely with the patient, the pharmacy technician will assume more pharmacist-related activities. More involved responsibilities will continue to increase over time for the pharmacy technician.
PTS: Is there anything you would like to add?
TR: Pharmacy, nursing and medicine were entwined from the beginning. The bond supporting healthcare will only become stronger with time.