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VCC’s expanded pharmacy tech program fills vital health care needs

Posted on February 9, 2022

Pharmacy technician and labels

Health care has been top of mind for many Canadians over the past two years, with most of us now knowing more about viruses, vaccines, and treatments than we ever imagined. Even without a pandemic, however, did you know that 40 to 50 new drugs are approved in Canada each year?  

Before reaching patients, each of these drugs passes through the hands of a pharmacy technician. In this constantly evolving profession, there’s always something new to learn, and those studying in Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) eight-month certificate program will now benefit from a significantly expanded curriculum. 

Pharmacy practice in Canada is governed by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) and pharmacy education programs are regulated by the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP). According to instructor Jennifer Vo, the various changes required by these bodies in 2019 triggered updates to VCC’s pharmacy technician program. Jennifer and her colleagues, however, took this opportunity to consult with program advisors, instructors, and alumni to design an expanded program that prepares students for the pharmacy demands of a post-COVID-19 world and beyond.

Getting it right

“We’re the accuracy police when it comes to pharmacy,” says Jennifer, noting that a major element of a pharmacy technician’s work is to do the final check of a prescription for accuracy of drug and strength chosen, directions, and other critical details before it goes to patients. “Some pharmacies fill hundreds prescriptions a day,” she says. “Errors are inevitable, but that’s why these systems are in place.”

VCC simulated pharmacy shelves

Simulated pharmacy classroom at VCC's Broadway campus

In addition to more complex prescription-checking, VCC’s pharmacy technician students will also benefit from more labs, role plays, and hands-on simulations such as training patients to use the latest medical devices and interviewing hospital patients on their medical history (called a medication reconciliation or “med rec”).

VCC’s expanded program also incorporated students’ feedback regarding workplace practicums and examinations, and now includes a practicum prep course, extended practicum periods, and a simulated licensing exam, all while keeping tuition costs among the lowest available. 

Reflecting on the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic put on health care systems in general, Jennifer has seen opportunities broadening for pharmacy technicians. “There are so many clinical services available in a pharmacy now,” she says, using as an example the Provincial Health Officer’s order in January 2022 allowing pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations for the first time ever. 

“Pharmacists and pharmacy techs are probably the easiest health care professionals to get in touch with. You don’t need an appointment and they are right there in the community,” she adds. Jennifer and her students are also excited about the future of their role in the health care system. “Health care professionals are overworked; we hear about it all the time,” she says. “Let’s share that work.” 

Join the future of health care. Apply now to VCC’s expanded pharmacy technician program starting in May 2022.