Selkirk College Pharmacy Technician Program Puts Grads on Health Care Frontline

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
March 17th, 2020

A career in the health care sector was pretty much a guarantee for Shelby Jorgensen. When she was a toddler, the 21-year-old Selkirk College alumna was diagnosed with type-one diabetes and since then has had an intimate connection to the vital importance of the health care system.

When it came time to decide on what post-secondary pathway to take, the Fruitvale native did not need to look far. She enroled in Selkirk College’s Pharmacy Technician Program and since graduating in 2018 has worked at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail where she is on the frontlines of helping deliver patient care.

“I have always been interested in pharmacy because growing up as a type-one diabetic,” Jorgensen says. “I was used to going to the pharmacies, seeing what they did and how they helped people. This is the only way I know how to live my life, so it certainly influenced how I chose what I wanted to pursue. I like helping people and thus the health care sector was the right field for me to search for a career.”

When Jorgensen was in Grade 11 at JL Crowe Secondary in Trail, one of her classes offered work experience based on a student’s interest. She spent a week in a community pharmacy where she was taken by the intricacy and challenges of the profession. Mature beyond her years, Jorgensen’s passion was so obvious that she was given a part-time paid job at the pharmacy.

After graduation, Jorgensen decided to explore the broader options that might exist and enroled in the School of University Arts & Sciences based out of the Castlegar Campus. She mulled over thoughts of becoming a diagnostic imaging technician or nurse, but ultimately returned to a field where she found more comfort.

Selkirk College’s 15-month Pharmacy Technician Program is delivered using a blend of online theory courses, face-to-face lab classes and practicum hours. Pharmacy technicians work collaboratively with pharmacists and members of the greater health care team. The program prepares graduates for employment as technicians in a variety of settings that include community, hospital and residential care.

Under the guidance of a team of instructors who are industry veterans, Jorgensen says the program exceeded her expectations. 

“I really liked how attentive the instructors were and how they are able to spend time with each student one-on-one,” she says. “With smaller class sizes, it’s beneficial to your learning and the final outcome.”

Now working full-time at the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, Jorgensen describes a typical week as one full of diverse tasks and interesting challenges. Over the course of a week, the team of pharmacy technicians rotate through five different tasks. The duties include receiving and delivering orders to the floors, restocking automated dispensing cabinets on the wards for nurses, receiving and processing medication orders for patients that are sent down from the floors by physicians via Pharmaflow and Meditech computer systems, and helping mix both home IV medications and chemotherapy.

“I appreciate the fast-paced environment, it’s a very busy position and the days go by quickly,” she says. “Everything that I learned in the program, I use. Every portion of the program and all the studying we did, I use that on a daily basis. It’s satisfying to know that the program was designed to be that relevant to this career.”

Traits associated with those who will be successful as a pharmacy technician include being detail-orientated, well organized, a strong team player, self-motivation, commitment to lifelong learning, critical thinking skills, an enjoyment of computer technology and strong interpersonal communication. As is the case with all health care careers, one of the most important qualities to possess is that of caring and empathy. For Jorgensen, that was never in doubt.

“It’s heartwarming to know that you are helping other people,” she says. “To know that what I am doing for somebody was once done for me. That is especially true when it comes to little kids, it’s nice to know that you helping them get better and helping them live happy, healthy lives. It’s very rewarding to be part of the health care system.”

Applications are now being accepted for the September 2020 intake of the Pharmacy Technician Program. You can find out more information at: http://www.selkirk.ca/program/ptec


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