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“We know our roles best”

September 28, 2022
Students and provisional pharmacy technicians benefit when learning from pharmacy technician preceptors.

When pharmacy technician students are gaining experience in a practice site or provisional pharmacy technicians are completing their Structured Practical Training (SPT), having a pharmacy technician as a preceptor often creates a more meaningful experience. In these cases, they are being taught and mentored by those who are working in the profession they are aspiring to.

We spoke to three groups of pharmacy technician preceptors and preceptees about their experiences.

Emily Osinowski and Melanie Vogel, Edmonton

Emily Osinowski has been a pharmacy technician since 2016 and currently practises at the Edmonton Remand Centre. She often precepts pharmacy technician students for a three-week rotation as part of their diploma program. Emily feels it’s important that students and provisional pharmacy technicians are precepted by their future peers—in other words, by pharmacy technicians.

“I think it has great value,” said Emily. “I think it’s great to have a technician teach a technician. We’re the ones doing the job; we know our roles best. It gives everyone a better flow of the pharmacy and it’s an ideal situation. It just makes sense.”

Melanie Vogel completed a three-week rotation with Emily while attending Norquest College. She is on her way to becoming a pharmacy technician.

“I felt like Emily and I had a closer relationship during my rotation because she is a technician,” said Melanie. “I knew that, in the future, I would be working with the same responsibilities as Emily. I felt that I related a lot more to her because, even though we had a few technician instructors at school, that was more of a teacher-student relationship. With Emily, I view her more as my mentor where I’m learning from my co-worker.”

Emily says she tries to make students feel welcome during their rotation and encourages them to ask questions and get hands-on experience. Melanie appreciated that approach.

“I enjoyed everything she taught me,” said Melanie. “I was really nervous about certain things because I was studying for my exams and getting ready for the Jurisprudence exam. Emily has gone through the exams and the registration process. She’s worked as a technician for years, so I was able to get her view of things from the other side and see what I’m working towards.”

As a preceptor, Emily says there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a student progress during their time with her.

“Honestly, it’s a great feeling,” said Emily. “With Melanie, she hadn’t done a lot of order entry, so at first, she was very hesitant entering orders and answering the phone at the same. Over time, she got way more confident and started answering the phone, doing order entry by herself. It made me feel like I can teach, I can make a difference, even in just a few weeks.”

Nina Dueck and Acacia Lovely, Calgary

Nina Dueck, a Technical Practice Leader with Alberta Health Services, feels precepting students and provisional pharmacy technicians is part of her professional role.

“I am very passionate about being a pharmacy technician and I believe that inspiring new graduates is the best thing you can do,” said Nina. “These are our future healthcare workers being tasked with putting our patients’ safety first, therefore it is important in the development process of being a competent well-rounded pharmacy professional.”

Nina’s approach to precepting is to take the time with her preceptees, demonstrate a genuine interest in them, and create a special bond with them.

“You’re not just there to teach them; you are also there to foster that connection with them and build that special relationship, thereby expanding your network,” said Nina. “I try to create a fun and positive learning experience. The students like it when you express enthusiasm for pharmacy, and it shows in your everyday interaction at the job and not be so boring!”

Nina makes learning fun by adding a twist for her preceptees. It’s part of what she hopes will make her preceptees more relaxed and able to approach her if they need to talk. Acacia Lovely was precepted by Nina and appreciated her teaching method.

“It makes a huge difference in this type of learning environment, because you feel comfortable asking any questions and receive answers or guidelines to successfully complete your job,” said Acacia. “Having a preceptor who is approachable makes the experience that much better and allows you to effectively gather information to expand on your existing skills.”

Acacia, who is now practising as a pharmacy technician at Calgary’s South Health Campus, also feels it was valuable to be precepted by a pharmacy technician.

“It was important to do my Structured Practical Training with a pharmacy technician because it allowed me to learn in a hands-on environment with someone with expertise on our profession,” said Acacia. “Whatever guidance I needed or if I had any questions, she was always there for me. She always provided great support and was very knowledgeable as well.”

Lauren Gray and Danielle Koenen, Lethbridge

Pharmacy technicians have played a key role in Lethbridge’s Chinook Regional Hospital emergency department since 2016. Pharmacy technician Lauren Gray is part of that team and acts as a preceptor for provisional pharmacy technicians completing their SPT. Her goal is to provide preceptees with an authentic hospital experience.

“I try hard to make sure they have access for every opportunity available to do all the rotations—go to the IV room, go to the cancer clinic—if there’s an opportunity I think is important to them, I try to make it happen,” said Lauren.

As a preceptor, Lauren observes the preceptee to ensure they are both comfortable and competent in their role as a pharmacy technician.

“I also wait to see them demonstrate that they know when to stop and ask questions, and when to ask further questions after being given an explanation,” said Lauren. “Then, I feel like they’re ready to enter the profession.  I make sure they have the skills and assets to go forth and be a good pharmacy technician.”

As it turns out, one of Lauren’s preceptees now works alongside her in the emergency department. Danielle Koenen completed her SPT under Lauren before registering as a pharmacy technician three years ago.

“Lauren was always there if I had questions and she’s very knowledgeable,” said Danielle. “She would sit down with me and go through my logbook with me. She was very thorough in making sure I knew what my responsibilities were. Once I completed my SPT, I was no longer nervous because I knew that I could do the job I had to do. I built my confidence up.”