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Pharmacy program off to strong start

04-Mar-2008: Walk into any drugstore today and the first person you'll likely see is a pharmacy technician. Walk in tomorrow and the chance is even greater.

The National Pharmacy Technician Association predicts nearly 30 percent job growth for techs over the next decade. Nearly 40,000 jobs are open in the field every year, it says.

It's Alisha Walker's job to fill those positions, or at least turn out graduates prepared to fill them.
Walker, the pharmacy technician program instructor at the William N. Neff Center, said as pharmacists expand their duties they're relying on technicians to help out and do many of the things they once did alone.

"Due to the aging population, the occupation is growing," she said.

Walker, who has involved in the Neff Center's program for three of its four years, got some good news from last year's class. Every student passed the state pharmacy technician certification board exam. Of the seven, four are already working as pharmacy technicians and two of those are looking to continue their educations at a pharmacy school. The one-year program equips students to assist pharmacists. It concentrates mainly on helping students pass state boards, Walker said. A program at Virginia Highlands Community College is geared toward preparing students for the more comprehensive national exam.

Walker said the class covers knowledge of the top 200 drugs - brand and generic names - medical math including all conversions, stocking, how to update patient profiles and how to interpret prescriptions. That includes reading the handwriting. To practice that, Walker said she gets old prescriptions, with names redacted, for student to study.

Walker said CVS has agreed to allow students to come in and get some hands-on experience. She said the drugstore would take one student at a time to help them train. Students would get a chance to practice their skills in a real-life situation several days a week for about three weeks, she said. She is hoping to get experience at other places, too, including at a compounding pharmacy and maybe a hospital pharmacy.

"I'd like them to see a hospital pharmacy," she said.

Source: Southwest Virginia Today

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