Teaching is something that Loren has always loved. That love serves her well in her position as Clinical Lab Instructor for the Bow Valley College Pharmacy Technician program. In her role, she draws on her pharmacy practice experiences to deliver and continuously update the hospital related course work. Loren started her 25 year pharmacy career as a pharmacy assistant with Shoppers Drug Mart and the Fanning Centre – a long-term care facility in Calgary. She also worked as a pharmacy assistant at the Peter Lougheed Centre. It was here that one of the pharmacy technicians took her into the cleanroom to watch IV preparation and she knew that sterile compounding was what she wanted to do. Loren decided to go back to school and graduated from the Red Deer College online pharmacy technician program in 2004. She continued to work at the Peter Lougheed Centre and Central Production Facility while going to school and during the same time, got married and her first son was born. It was hard work but she found that the knowledge she had from working as a pharmacy assistant helped her succeed as a pharmacy technician student.
She completed her practicum at the Foothills Medical Centre (FMC) and was hired there as a pharmacy technician right out of school. She immediately loved the fast paced environment. Since FMC is a trauma center for southern Alberta, working there meant Loren experienced interesting cases. After about six months at the Foothills pharmacy Loren had the opportunity to return to the Central Production Facility (CPF) where she had been one of the first pharmacy staff and part of the facility design team. She spent the next eight years at the CPF working her way through the ranks of being TPN certified, a lead technician, and a sterile compounding certifier responsible for training and evaluating other staff on their aseptic technique. It was Loren’s manager at CPF that told Loren about the Bow Valley College teaching position when it became available. Loren’s experience was well suited to taking over the teaching of the program’s hospital and sterile compounding courses.
When Loren took the Lab Instructor position at Bow Valley College in 2011, bridging for pharmacy technicians was well underway. Now, well past the transition period, she’s found that the program has doubled in size. When she first started teaching Loren had 7 students. Now, there is an intake of 44 students plus a waiting list. Loren has spent the last couple months getting the curriculum ready for the students that will start in September.
She has been reviewing the sterile lab material for updates that come from the NAPRA Model Standards for Pharmacy Compounding of Sterile Preparations – even little things like not wearing earrings under the bouffant, removing piercings and changing into indoor shoes when preparing to sterile compound. She says that she works closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure students are aware of the most current provincial practices. One of the changes Loren is getting ready for is teaching students how to check without proxy verification methods. The majority of checking processes utilized in sterile compounding, like “syringe pull-back” are proxy verification methods. This type of checking is unsafe and no longer recommended as acceptable practice. Loren recognizes that this is a big change since proxy checking has been done for many years, but she says “it’s all about patient safety”. That’s her message to students; she wants them to know that their practice should be about “turning out a product that’s as safe as possible”. Loren uses stories from her own practice to teach because she finds that students learn better when they know why something is being done.
Just like she teaches her students, Loren has been continuously developing herself. She started her pharmacy technician career with a certificate, upgraded to a diploma along the way and is about to receive her Master’s degree. When she first pursued this opportunity, Loren had no idea what type of advanced education she wanted to complete. Being a front-line healthcare professional she decided to focus on public health. She says that there continues to be significant need for medical services and people don’t know how pharmacy technicians can contribute. She believes the general population would be healthier if both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians were working to their full potential. She hears regularly from preceptors that pharmacy technicians aren’t practicing to full scope. So, when it was time to choose a research topic she chose something close to her heart – pharmacy technician scope of practice. She received ethics approval for her project and went on to complete data collection interviewing pharmacy professionals about their experiences. She hopes that her research “will provide a realistic view of the barriers people are having working to full scope.” She wants to give a clearer view of exactly what is happening and what needs to change. “Pharmacy needs to find a way to continue to be viable” and understand “what it is that’s holding us back”. She doesn’t want to just focus on barriers though, she is also looking at what’s working well.
Loren doesn’t think she wants to do research all the time but she says having some projects helps her continue to grow. As an educator, she’s able to inspire new pharmacy technicians to get passionate about the profession from the time she sees them as students. She says ours is an ever-changing profession and we need to “feel desire to keep things moving forward”.
Loren is still looking for pharmacy assistants and pharmacists in the Calgary area (she has had a lot of pharmacy technician interest) to interview for her research. If you’re interested in participating you can contact her at 403-620-6068 or loren.voice@online.Liverpool.ac.uk