Mid-way through Respiratory Therapy training, student makes jump to Pharmacy Technology career program
An unfortunate car accident on 20-year-old Megan King’s long commute to her Respiratory Therapy (RT) class on SJVC’s Ontario campus turned out to be a career-changing event. Her injuries would heal, but she decided she would continue her education at SJVC’s campus in Hesperia, a little closer to home. The smaller campus did not offer Respiratory Therapy, but the Pharmacy Technology (PT) program had a lot of appeal to Megan. Plus, many of her RT classes would transfer to the PT program.
Her mom, Lisa, once worked as a Pharmacy Technologist, but her license had expired. Dual light bulbs clicked on. They would enroll in the program together! Megan could launch a new career and Lisa could refresh her skills and earn her recertification for a return to work.
How did the mother/daughter buddy system work?
She enrolled first and already had a lot of knowledge going in, but we did most of our projects together. Study-wise I used flash cards a lot, but she liked to write things out on paper and study it. She has a photographic memory, but I needed the bits and pieces to put the story together. If she needed help, I’d help her and if I needed help, she’d help me.
We rode together to and from school, did homework together and did most of our projects together. There was some healthy competition sometimes, but that would just make each of us do better.
What was your strongest motivation to attend a ‘career college’?
I was tired of working in fast food and busting my butt for minimum wage. I was frustrated and had had enough. I was still going to community college at the time, but it was just going too slow. I needed to figure something else out.
What appealed to you about SJVC?
I liked the accelerated fact of SJVC programs. And, if you’re the type who wants to get going and do it quickly, accelerated programs fit. But teachers do take time with the material and make sure the students get it before they move on. I’ve had teachers stay an extra hour or two if I needed help.
Were there any big surprises in the Pharmacy Technology program?
I didn’t know that Pharmacy Techs handled chemotherapy. PT grads can get hired as Chemotherapy Technicians, dealing with patients. Technicians are specialists who mix the chemicals and put them into IV bags. They taught us how to use the hood – a ventilation system, using a counter and cover. It’s nice to have the knowledge.
Hesperia campus class sizes were a lot smaller. It was an advantage because teachers can take a little more time with the material and have more one-on-one with students.
Were there any struggles for you when you first went back to college?
Just coming out of high school I was kind of nervous and everyone in class was older than me. Medical terminology was overwhelming. It only took me about a week to realize I had to just do it, just get it done. (Megan is referring to her original Respiratory Therapy program on the Ontario campus).
Otherwise, I don’t think I really had to struggle. It (PT program) went pretty easily for me, honestly. I pick up things pretty quickly. When someone else struggled, we’d sit in group and help. I ended up with a 4.0 GPA.
What advice would you give to those about to enroll in SJVC’s Pharmacy Technology program?
Pay a lot of attention to ‘billing’ because that’s going to be really important when you get out into the field.
You completed your PT program in January 2020 and are now working at CVS Pharmacy. What is it like?
I love it! And my manager, Katherine, is probably the best boss I’ve ever had. I am in training to learn inventory filing and redeploys to become Lead Technician.
Mr. Burgess (SJVC faculty member) had written a great letter of recommendation and they (CVS) called me in for an interview. I was hired on the spot. His letter was why they hired me.
I started my job in April last year when the Covid pandemic was really high. We have to mask-up and we do Covid testing. In February we completed special training and certification to give vaccinations. We (pharmacy staff) were each other’s first vaccinations. The only reason I got a shot at all at my age is because I’m a technician.
People set up appointments online, but we have a waiting list for elderly people who have no access to internet. Our shots are Johnson & Johnson, so patients don’t need a second shot. It’s one-and-done. We have to give all our shots within six hours, otherwise potency expires. We had to stop our clinic vaccinations for now because we only have a supply of 15-20.
How are you handling working on the front lines of administering vaccinations for a world-wide pandemic.
I played catcher (baseball) for 12-years. I love the game. It taught me dedication, to stay focused and it taught me that you have to be a team player. Working with CVS during the pandemic, that all comes into play. The other day I thought, ‘Oh, softball taught me this!’
Where do you go from here career-wise?
I do plan to continue with SJVC and get my Associate of Science degree – maybe in Medical Assisting. This is all a stepping-stone to becoming a PA (Physician Assistant). I’ve set my mind to being a Physician Assistant and have a plan to continue.
What inspires you toward greater heights in your career and life?
At first it was just for me. But recently my Papa (Buddy) passed away. He was always proud of me. He was in the Navy, was a Fire Chief and did so much in his life. He pursued what he wanted, and I strive to do that. At the end of the day, in my mind, I’m doing it for him.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.