By Harumi Hope, emergency department pharmacy technician at CHOC
A pharmacy technician works under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist and perform many pharmacy-related functions.
At CHOC Hospital, pharmacy technicians prepare, dispense and deliver medications and make sure required administrative work is kept up to date. They take on these responsibilities so the pharmacists can focus on assisting patients and healthcare providers to ensure patient safety and satisfaction.
In addition to CHOC’s inpatient and outpatient pharmacies there are three satellite pharmacies—the operating room pharmacy, the emergency department (ED) pharmacy, and the intensive care unit pharmacy.
This is a typical day in my life as an ED pharmacy technician
6:45 a.m. — My alarm goes off. I make breakfast, get my kids ready and choose colors for my scrubs (my favorite is maroon!), and drop kids off before work.
8:25 a.m. — Arriving at work a little bit early, I stop for a cold brew to jump start my day. My shift as an ED pharmacy technician starts at 8:45 a.m. Before heading to the ED pharmacy, I spend a few minutes catching up with my colleagues in the main pharmacy. Getting handoff from the morning crew helps me plan and prioritize my work.
8:45 a.m. — As soon as my shift starts, my first priority is to determine if there are any urgent medications to dispense. Keeping a watchful eye over the programs we use to manage these is essential to preventing delays in drug delivery. My first order to fill today is an IV antibiotic that is commonly used to treat infections.
As soon as the pharmacist verifies the order, I start preparing the medication in our sterile hood. Mixing ingredients together to prepare a medication is known as compounding. It is a specialized skill that requires clean technique, strong math skills and attention to detail. This is a very important task that can help to save the lives of sick or injured patients. I find this part of my job as a pharmacy technician especially rewarding and satisfying. After compounding this medication, I deliver it to the nurse who is taking care of the patient.
9:15 a.m. — I go to the MRI suite to replenish emergency medication trays and replenish them. Ensuring that emergency medications are available is an important function of my job.
10 a.m. — An emergency code is called, and I grab our emergency medication cart quickly and go to the patient room along with the ED pharmacist. A patient is seizing and needs a rescue medication immediately. After the pharmacist receives an order from the doctor, I draw up the dose have the pharmacist double-check prior to handing the medication to a nurse. Thankfully, the patient responds to the medication quickly. Once the patient is stable, we return to the ED pharmacy.
11 a.m. — Throughout the day, I check inventory and replenish medications stored in the two medication rooms and medical supply carts to ensure the medical team has the supplies they need to take care of patients.
12:15 p.m. — A patient in the ED who takes multiple medications at home is going to be admitted to the hospital, so I stop by her room for medication reconciliation. This is where we take a thorough medication history in order to make sure the appropriate medications and doses are continued while the patient is in the hospital. . .
1 p.m. — I try to eat healthy, so I pack salad with homemade dressing, spaghetti and fruits. When there is not a lot of time for cooking, pasta is always the answer.
1:30 p.m. — When I return to the ED pharmacy, I continue with drug preparation, inventory replenishment and medication reconciliation.
4 p.m. — While my priority is ED patients, I try to help the main pharmacy whenever I can. This time is usually the busiest time in there as they have the biggest medication batch for the entire hospital.
5 p.m. — The ED pharmacy receives a page of an incoming trauma patient. The pharmacist and I go to the assigned room with our emergency medication cart and wait for the patient to arrive.
When the transport team arrives with the patient, a paramedic explains what happened, and I try to catch all the important information in case medications are needed. Although the patient has some wounds on his forehead, fortunately, he is stable and doesn’t seem to need any medications at the time.
6:30 p.m. — After several orders and a medication reconciliation, I start cleaning my work station, IV hood, and other areas in ED pharmacy.
7 p.m. — The night shift ED pharmacy technician comes in, and I update him on the day. After making sure everything is clean and stocked up, I head home.
7:50 p.m. — My kids have already eaten dinner, so I quickly eat when I get home. Before tucking the kids to bed, we spend some precious time reading together. They both like to read a lot, and I am very proud of them especially because I never liked to read as a kid. Although there isn’t much time with them around this schedule, I do my best to support them in different ways, and I really appreciate my family for understanding my work.
8:30 p.m. — After preparing lunch for tomorrow and giving the kids a shower, there is finally some time to myself. I enjoy unwinding with music. It is my favorite time of day.
In bed, I think about what I can improve the next day for a better patient care. Sometimes, I dream about making medications.
Although the days can be hectic, I enjoy being a mom and working as a pharmacy technician. There is so much to learn every day and so many opportunities for growth in the pharmacy. It can be stressful, but I work with a passionate group of people who like what they do for our patients, and I am proud to be part of the team.