Our Instructor Spotlight is on our Pharmacy Technician Academy instructor, Cynthia Wright, MPAH, CPhT. She also teaches for Allied Health and at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and she has a master’s degree in public health administration.
Marah: What professional experience do you have relating to the course you are teaching?
Cynthia: I’m a Certified Pharmacy Technician and a nationally-registered pharmacy technician. When I became a technician about 16 years ago, you didn’t have to go through a program to be certified like you do now. Instead, you studied on your own, so I got a pharmacy technician book that taught different pharmacy techniques. The book was what prepared me to pass my certification exam. I studied that book for about 4-5 months, registered with PTCB, and took the test.
Becoming certified opened many doors for me. After I became certified, I began working at a pharmacy in an inpatient cardiology hospital. I gained experience making IV’s for patients suffering from cardiac heart failure, filling prescriptions, and making TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) bags for patients that were unable to take medicine by mouth. After working there for nine years, I decided to become a full-time pharmacy tech teacher.
M: What made you decide to become a teacher?
C: When I was working on my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to teach either in the field of public health or allied health. I had lots of experience, knowledge, and skills in the pharmacy tech field, and I became an educator to share the knowledge I gained from my hands-on, real-world experience.
M: Why do you love teaching?
C: Many students begin the class saying, “I don’t like math, I don’t do well in math.” I started out the same way, and it’s ok not to love it, but you have to do math in the pharmacy tech field. One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is seeing students begin the class struggling with math and calculations…and then, you see the same individuals complete the course, get certified, and work as a pharmacy technician! I find fulfillment in teaching when I see the outcome of an individual’s hard work.
M: What is your teaching philosophy?
C: I want to stimulate students’ minds, and I want them to know I’m available to assist them and help them meet their full potential. I want to provide an environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their ideas. I also think it’s important to allow students to be able to take risks in school. If they answer a problem incorrectly, I want them to know that they have an instructor who will send them on the right path and show them how to work a math problem. They may not be comfortable asking questions, so they are taking a risk and putting themselves out there by asking for help. But I want them to know that it’s ok if they don’t know something, we can learn it together, and I am there to help them step-by-step.
M: What do you believe students will gain by taking your course? What are the goals you have for your students?
C: The main goal I have for my students is for them to take a state or national certification exam and pass it after finishing the course. I want them to know that all the coursework we cover, and the skills and knowledge they gain, will be able to be used in whichever branch of pharmacy they choose to work.
Another goal I set for my students is to make sure they are confident enough to work under a pharmacist when finishing the course. Pharmacy techs have lots of contact with doctors and nurses, which some students find intimidating. I want students to be so confident and feel 100% comfortable in what they are doing, because patients’ lives depend on it.
M: What kind of job opportunities are available to a pharmacy tech student after completing the course?
C: There are so many options!
- They can work at inpatient pharmacies, which are located inside of hospitals.
- They can work at outpatient pharmacies, which are any pharmacies not located inside of hospitals. One type of outpatient pharmacy is a retail pharmacy such as CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. A mail-order pharmacy is another example of an outpatient pharmacy.
- They can work in the management drug system, where they monitor patients taking medications, contact them to remind them about refills, and discuss with patients why it’s important that they take their medicine. They work behind the scenes to serve as a “mentor” for patients in order to keep them on their drugs.
- They can go into teaching at universities by obtaining a master’s degree.
- They can be speakers at high schools and universities to motivate students and guide them into a PT career. That’s something I’ve done and enjoyed! I share stats like “these are the numbers of medication errors made in the US each year. This is why good PT’s are vital!”
M: How do you motivate students in your classroom?
C: I think a big motivator for students is to be able to have one-on-one time with me if needed. If students are struggling, most typically don’t show it in front of their peers. It motivates them to have an instructor who will stay with them after class or work with them outside of class to review extra problems. Not only that, but that gives me the opportunity to motivate them through encouraging words. I think it’s important to stay in touch with students even after they graduate and let them know that I am here to help them not just during the class, but with their career path itself.
I also physically take my students into a hospital pharmacy and let them tour the IV room and see where drugs are made. I let them watch CPT’s make IV’s, fill prescriptions, and compound ointments and creams. It motivates my students to see what goes on in the pharmacy instead of spending the entire semester just doing math on the board every day. (Math is important, but the field trip shows them what their daily lives would look like as a pharmacy tech!) Students are also highly motivated by the clinical, hands-on aspect of the course. They enjoy it when I teach them how to do their day-to-day activities, like filling prescriptions and making IV drugs! This gives students a glimpse into their future.
M: What is your favorite aspect/topic of your course to teach, and why?
C: I love teaching the hands-on skills to students because they are getting practical experience and learning aspects that must be done correctly to make sure patients are taken care of! I teach things like how to:
- Make ointments and cremes
- Fill prescriptions
- Make IV drugs
- Weigh tablets and convert them from grams to milligrams
- Make suppositories
- Convert medicines from liquid to powder form
- Be sterile free when creating medicines (for example, having nails a certain length so they can’t chip and fall into the medicines the pharmacy tech is making)
M: What are three fun facts about you?
- I love attending religious functions. I like going to revivals, any type of religious plays, and attending church.
- My hobbies are hiking and cooking vegetarian dishes.
- I love traveling back to Hawaii (where I used to live) to visit friends there. I lived in O’ahu, and my first job before becoming a CPT was working as a pharmacy clerk in Honolulu, Hawaii.
M: Is there anything else you would like to share?
C: Working as a pharmacy tech is so rewarding. Let’s say you have a patient come in who was in a very bad accident and they have to stay in the hospital for 2-3 months. You’re the person making the drugs every day that are helping them survive. It’s very rewarding to see patients walk out of that hospital, knowing you made a difference in that patient’s life. Potential students shouldn’t be intimidated by math if they’re interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy tech. People are living longer because of the advances we have in medical technology, but they live longer with diseases—creating a high demand for pharmacy techs. A computer can’t do the job that a pharmacy tech does. The world needs pharmacy techs!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
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