Jenna Bald is a busy woman. As a pharmacy technician at Costco Wholesale in Brighton, Michigan, she interacts with customers all day, which helps the pharmacy at this giant store run smoothly.
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“We fill prescriptions constantly, ring up stuff, cash people out,” she says. “When people drop off prescriptions, we must enter it into the system, order drugs if we’re out of stock. Sometimes we have to call doctors to verify prescriptions, too.
“I like it all. It’s never the same day. Something is always different.”
At 31, Jenna, who lives in Hamburg, Michigan, is a good example of someone who has found what she loves doing—and a good example of the long and winding road so many people follow to discover that right-fit career.
Many twentysomethings, not to mention those in other age groups, can identify with the tone in her voice when she says, “I got sick of waitressing and bartending.”
Finding Her Career Path
The path is so familiar. It all started after high school graduation, when Jenna “wasted a lot of money” going to a community college without realizing what she really wanted to do. “At first I thought I wanted to go into accounting, but I realized it was not for me.”
Then it was looking at medical careers: Ultrasound technician? No, not enough schools in the area offered that training. X-ray technician? Ahhhh … no.
Finally, Jenna says, “I came across the pharmacy technician program, which only lasts for one year. I got into that, and it was actually pretty interesting.”
It was relatively challenging, too. Prerequisite courses included basic algebra, English, biology, and the like. After that came the pharmacy technician training. Jenna could have chosen on-the-job training, but, she says, she has heard that by 2020, pharmacy technicians will have to attend an accredited program.
She opted for Washtenaw Community College (WCC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The program’s courses include healthcare terminology, medical terminology, introduction to pharmacy and healthcare systems, prescription processing and compounding, and many more.
After that came an internship. Jenna interviewed at the University of Michigan hospital and was accepted.
“They had me do all the different pharmacies,” she says, “such as the compounding department,” which involves putting together lotions, gastrointestinal cocktails, “magic mouthwash,” and the like.
After that came the outpatient training part of the internship at UM’s Cancer Center, which included learning such tasks as “clean room” techniques.
“It felt so right once I was doing the clinical experience,” Jenna says, which contrasted with the less exciting but oh-so-necessary classroom education. “Just the thought of helping others, that was my absolute favorite. Even if some people were jerks, I understood: They don’t feel good.”
It’s Official: Earning Certification
Jenna celebrated the big days when, first, she earned her certificate from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board through WCC, and then her license after passing the state certification test, administered through the Michigan Department for Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
“It felt great,” she says. “You have to take the big test and pass it, and then there is continuing education to maintain the license.”
Today, Jenna illustrates the contentment of someone who has found her calling in life, although she hopes one day to extend her pharmacy education. She has learned what she loves, especially working in retail versus online settings, because she enjoys working with people.
Chances are pretty good that people like working with her, too.