Interview with Jessica Barajas, CPhT at Medical Pavillion

We recently had the opportunity to interview Jessica Barajas, a PTCB Certified and Licensed Pharmacy Technician at a retail pharmacy called Medical Pavilion Pharmacy in Gilroy, CA. She a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from Stanislaus State University. In this interview, she shares her career journey and advice for interested individuals looking to enter this healthcare field.

Jessica Barajas Pharmacy Technician

What is it that you do in your current role as a pharmacy technician?

As a pharmacy technician I work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. I verify that patient and medication information on prescription is complete and accurate before I can prepare medications to fill prescriptions.

In preparing medication, I count tablets/capsules and measure, mix, pour, and record amounts and dosages of medications.

I also remove drugs from stock, place medications into containers, create labels for the containers, and package or repackage pharmaceuticals. 

Once the prescription is prepared, it is verified and documented by pharmacists before given to the patient to ensure all information is correct and medication matches according to prescription.

How many years have you worked as a pharmacy technician?

Just for over 3 years now.

Can you tell us why you decided to become a pharmacy technician and how you got started?

Becoming a pharmacy technician was not my first career choice, I came upon this job while I was attending Stanislaus State University.

I worked at CVS Pharmacy as a Cashier Clerk for about 5 years until I found out about their CVS Pharmacy Cross Training Program. This program consists of several modules and quizzes in regards to the role of a pharmacy technician and law and regulations that need to be known about the pharmacy. 

I also completed one 8-hour class of learning on how to use the CVS Pharmacy computer system, the workflow of the pharmacy, and scenarios of how a technician-patient interaction would go about.

Afterwards, I completed an on-the-job training at a different CVS Pharmacy location from my home store, then, I needed to complete over 200 of pharmacy hours at my home location to be given my technician license. The rest was history and I have loved every moment of being a pharmacy technician.

Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you?

A typical day in a retail pharmacy would be to greet and assist any patients that have questions, helping them locate health-related items, and medication pickups. Verify and process any prescriptions that come in electronically through our computer system.

I take patient and doctor phone calls throughout the day to answer any questions or handle any requests that are being asked. I also prepare and fill medications according to each prescription.

Pharmacists will verify and document medications. In between I check patients out at the register if they are waiting. I check inventory in the pharmacy on a continual basis to ensure we keep medications and medical supplies in stock.

Can you share how has the career path of the pharmacy technician evolved post-pandemic?

Pandemic caused an increase in the role and profile of pharmacy technicians.

One example being, technicians were not relied on to give vaccines, it was the duty of pharmacists only to give vaccines. Due to the high volume of need for COVID vaccines and at the time it was also flu season, it became too overwhelming for pharmacists.

Thus, the US Department of Health and Human Services decided to extend the work to the technicians. I expect the role of pharmacy technicians to continue expanding post-pandemic.

Certainly there will be more responsibilities for pharmacy technicians, for example, purchasing management, dispensing activities, immunizations, medication therapy management, supervisory position, quality improvement, of course all under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.

Hopefully the regulations on tech ratios will be eliminated to ensure we can have all the help that we can get. Also, the pandemic has evolved our skills and redesigned our workflow to optimize effectiveness. It has set pharmacy technicians on a certain path towards better recognition and better care for our patients.

Where do you see this role taking you or where do you envision the expansion of your area of specialty?

My role as a pharmacy technician is to assist pharmacists and offer support to patients by making sure they receive appropriate care but I can work in many work environments, including community and hospital pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, educational facilities and veterinary practices.

My specialty would be retail pharmacy but now I need to find out how I want my role to evolve. Just like pharmacists I can specialize in various areas of the medical field. My career story is to be continued.

What advice would you give to prospective pharmacy technicians who are just starting their careers?

Advice I would give to prospective pharmacy technicians is to diversify their skills to include greater knowledge of behavior and social aspects of care. In this work field you are definitely going to need great oral, written communication, and customer service skills.

Building a patient-centered relationship will help you connect and better know your patients health to give the best possible medication care. I also highly advise every technician not to be afraid to ask questions or for help.

Your cohorts are your team and you are all there to support each other in order to have a great work flow and to be able to deliver the best care to patients.