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The demands of business are changing at a higher velocity than ever before; meeting those demands requires innovative thinking from educators – agility is now the rarity factor that sets the bar. Historically, quality of learning drove value for institutions, but modern teaching technology and methodology, along with a sense of practicality and pace, and the ever-expanding needs of the workforce, have leveled the playing field. In our new series, Agile Education, we’ll explore some of the ways St. Pete schools are keeping up with the speed of the new economy.
Part one in a series.
Jeannie Pappas is a senior instructor in the Pinellas Technical College (P-Tech) Pharmacy Technician program. She’s been on the job for 23 years. “We teach them to do a job,” she explains. “We’re not teaching them something that they’re never going to use.”
Pharmacy technicians mix IV solutions for hospitals, compound medications, package and prepare medications for hospitals and retail pharmacies and work closely with pharmacists and nurses. And a whole lot more. A good pharmacy tech is key to the successful operation of any medical institution – and in Florida, with its steady elderly population, there is always a critical need for them. Florida, Pappas explains, is the largest health-care state in the nation.
“We recently had our local advisory board meeting for our program,” she says, “and all 20 advisors said they were in need of pharmacy techs. And that’s just the people that are on our advisory committee.”
It is a need that never goes away, she stresses. “Technicians work for less money than pharmacists do, so they’re utilizing technicians more and more these days.”
The P-Tech program is approximately one year of intensive, in –depth study of everything from chemistry to compounding to medical law. It includes internships at local pharmacies and hospitals. Upon successful completion of the program, the State Board of Pharmacy issues a technician’s license.
Nineteen-year-old Andy Andrade will complete the P-Tech program at the end of May. He and his family moved to the area from their native Honduras two years ago, and he graduated from St. Pete High in 2017.
At first, he knew very little English. “I was a little sad because I didn’t understand,” Andrade says with a shy smile, “but that encouraged me to learn English, fast. So I could make friends, work and go to school and get good grades.”
He came from a family of teachers, and had always expected to pursue that profession, but leaving his homeland in a hurry – to escape the ongoing Honduran political and social turbulence – made that something of a question mark.
One day in school, during his junior year, he saw a friend wearing a P-Tech pharmacy tech scrubs. He asked about the program, and soon was talking with his high school counselor about getting into the program as a senior.
“I decided I wanted to do something in the medical field. Because I like to help people. In pharmacy tech, we don’t treat patients but we actually help them, with medications.”
As a senior, Andrade spent the first three hours of every school day studying pharmacy tech at P-Tech, before returning to the St. Pete High campus for regular classes in the afternoon.
After a year of this dual enrollment, he graduated, and P-Tech became his life for just under another year.
He’s currently finishing up a lengthy internship at Northside Hospital, which has offered him a fulltime position (he’s accepted) once he has his license.
“I was surprised at all the work a pharmacy tech has to do,” Andrade says. “I remember a lady said to me ‘Don’t you basically just count pills?’ And I was like, you don’t know … just because we don’t see a patient – and because we don’t go to school for four years – you might think we don’t do that much. But in a retail pharmacy or in a hospital, we actually do a lot of things.”
Post-high school adults, explains Pappas, can finish the entire program in about one year. For Andrade, it took a little longer – he had to get that pesky high school degree out of the way first.
But it was worth it. He’s now a professional ready to enter the workforce. And who knows, he’s thinking, this could lead to an even bigger career in medicine … a doctor, maybe?
Andy Adrande says he looks forward to going to work each day. “You honestly feel like it’s your second family. It’s the same when you’re in the school. You never feel alone, I’ll say it that way.”
Learn more about Pinellas Technical College here.