Sara Bedard
Sara Bedard is a care coordinator and student at Charter College.

Submitted by Charter College

Sara Bedard was one week into her Pharmacy Technician program at Charter College when she found out the cancer that had been in remission had come back. She persevered, going to class and doing homework in between chemo treatments.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I did it. I would go to chemo and the next day I had school,” she says. “My husband would drive me to school and make sure I had everything I needed for the day. I would come home and finish all my homework and then go to bed.”

She says she chose the pharmacy field because of her experience going through cancer over the last few years. “I wanted to help people going through hard times, but I also didn’t want to poke anyone with needles,” she says. “I wanted to be available to help people going through what I went through.”

Bedard is now working as a Care Coordinator at Geneva Woods, doing exactly that. “My job is fantastic. I started out packing prescriptions and filling emergency drug orders. After just a few months, I was promoted to the job I have now, processing prescriptions and filling them for caregivers and patients. I also answer phone calls and help answer questions.” 

Lawan Miller is the Lead Pharmacy Technician instructor at Charter College, where Bedard earned her certification. She has worked as a Pharmacy Technician for more than 10 years and continues to do so on a temporary basis, so she can keep her certification current. “Being a Pharmacy Technician is hugely rewarding. We’re in the same role a nurse is to a doctor,” she says. “Pharmacists rely on their technicians, our experience and the relationships we have with patients.” 

Miller began teaching at Charter College in Vancouver two and a half years ago because she wanted to help educate the next generation of Pharmacy Technicians. “I have worked in a variety of health care settings, with all kinds of people,” she says. “I wanted to get out there and help develop strong technicians with the skills they need to fill the demand that there is for them.”

Lawan helped guide me and supported me through all of the negative that was happening in my life and she made things easy to understand to help jump-start me into a career I love,” Bedard says. “Once you start, it’s fast-paced and then you graduate and are employed.” 

A Pharmacy Technician Education

The Charter College Vancouver campus, which is located at the Columbia Tech Center, opened its doors in 2010 and specializes in career-focused education with a bachelor’s, associate and certificate programs in health care, business, trades and information technology.

The 10-month Pharmacy Technician program prepares students for employment as an entry-level assistant to a licensed pharmacist. The program provides the fundamentals of pharmacy calculations, drug distribution systems, preparation of sterile dosage forms, customer service, pharmacy law and ethics and pharmacy operations.

To meet work requirements in Washington, all pharmacy technician students are required to pass a national pharmacy technician certification examination administered by a program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Charter College will sponsor students who take the national exam with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board which is accredited by NCCA.

The Jobs Are There
As with other health care fields, the outlook is good for pharmacy technicians. An aging population tends to mean more prescription usage, and pharmaceutical advances will also mean more opportunities in this field. 

Miller says that’s absolutely the case in Vancouver. “I get calls from health care facilities in Oregon and Washington weekly, looking for experienced technicians. It’s a growing field and they need good people.”

Pharmacy Technicians jobs are as varied as there are health care environments. Miller says that jobs are plentiful in hospitals, out-patient, retail, long-term care, insurance and more. “There are also great opportunities to work while you’re going to school,” she says. “This sets up students for even more success when they graduate.”

Charter College’s Blended Learning curriculum combines hands-on classroom and work experience with online education. This schedule offers students more flexibility with their schedules, allowing them to work and manage family life. It saves them daily travel time and expenses, offering them the convenience of learning from home blended with hands-on learning and support. Prior to graduation, students also complete an externship in a pharmacy or clinic to gain additional work experience.

Details on Charter College’s pharmacy technician program are available at www.chartercollege.edu/programs/healthcare/pharmacy-technician or by calling 888-200-9942.

“When things happen in your life that you don’t expect, something horrible or something that makes you re-evaluate your life. That’s the time to make a change if you’ve been waiting for a sign,” Bedard shares. “Cancer was my sign that I wanted to live a better life. Going to Charter and getting the help I needed to succeed has turned my life around. And, even though I’m still battling cancer, I know my life will be better because I am doing something I love, and pharmacy was the open door I needed for that.” 

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