Pharmacy technology program unique for CRC

Within the Los Rios Community College District, each school has certain programs that are specific to that campus. At Cosumnes River College, students have an opportunity to participate in a pharmacy technology program.

The Associate of Science of Pharmacy Technology is a two-year program offered to those who are interested in a medical occupation and is the only accredited pharmacy program within the Los Rios district.

It is currently taught by Professor Joseph Gee, a University California San Francisco graduate and an employee at the University California Davis Medical Center. After working within a clinical setting for a number of years, he decided it was time to come back to education and teach the pharmacy technology program here at Cosumnes River College.

“It’s the foundation to a four-year program,” Gee said. “A stepping stone.”

The program is broken up in two parts. In the first year, students should expect the bulk of their school work to be lecture and theory intensive. Students begin to familiarize and memorize numerous pharmacy terminology.

Matthew Vang, 28, pharmacy technology major said the program can be very rigorous and there is more to the job than people might think.

“It’s overwhelming at first,” said Vang. “It’s intentionally set up that way, so you could get an idea of what the program is about.”

There were over 50 students when Vang started his journey, but now the number has dwindled to 17.

Gee said the second year is more hands on. The students who partake in the mandatory lab have the chance to work in a “mock-pharmacy.”

In just two years, students can accumulate 60 to 65 transferable units. If students want to continue their education, they can take two more years of courses at a university and then apply to their choice of pharmacy schools.

Gee said before students can obtain their A.S. in pharmacy technology, they are required to complete 120 hours of retail and 240 hours in an institutional pharmacy as an externship, which is similar to an internship but shorter in duration.

By the spring 2016 semester, some students in the program will begin their externships. Vang said the program’s top students will have a chance to do their externship at UC Davis Medical Center.  

“The externship is a trial run in which students can demonstrate the skills that they learned in class which could lead to a job opportunity,” Gee said.

He said the hands on training from the lab and the externship prepares future pharmacy technicians in not only giving people the right medications, but also educating the patients.   

“The field has changed dramatically which includes the responsibilities,” Vang said. “Before pharmacy technicians were limited, but now are acquiring the pharmacist’s duties.”

In 2013, Senate Bill 493 was passed to reclassify the pharmacist profession, according to the California Society of Health-System Pharmacist website. The bill gives pharmacist the ability to help patients when there are shortages of physicians.

“Pharmacist are now known as Health Care Service Providers,” Gee said. “The services provide  an emphasis for preventive care, provide knowledge and how to mentor the patient.”

Gee said that although pharmacy technicians are not qualified by law to make any diagnosis, they can be trained to provide education to patients by protocol. This means that under the tutelage of the pharmacist, pharmacy technicians may help answer any questions that patients may have.

Some pharmacy tech students said graduating with an associates degree in pharmacy technology at CRC can lead to many opportunities in that field.

Jennifer Alchor, 44, pharmacy technology major started in 2010 and said she returned this fall to accomplish her goal. She previously worked in the medical insurance field, but she said she knows the pharmacy technology field is growing and is secure.

“Pharmacy technology is going to open a different bunch of avenues,” Alchor said. “There is a great personal satisfaction.” She said she either wants to work in a retail or institutionalized pharmacy.

It’s Vang’s last semester, but he said he doesn’t want it to end here. He wants to become a medical doctor in the future. He said his plan is to gain enough experience in his field and then integrate himself into medical school.

Vang said his only advice for those who want to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician is to, “take pride in what you do. Aim for 100% accuracy because patients’ lives are at stake.”