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Chris Hicks is the pharmacy director at Charlottesville Free Clinic, which offers free, high-quality medical and dental care, including medications, for community members without affordable access to health care in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 35-year-old has been with the Free Clinic for eight years and has spent 16 years as a pharmacy technician.
Why did you get into this line of work? And did you always want to do this?
This was a college job that grew into a tech management position as I stuck with it. I didn’t have any desire to get into pharmacy or the medical field before getting the job.
What does a typical day look like?
A typical day involves checking the refill logs, printing bottle labels, following up on med donation programs, scheduling the volunteer pharmacists and techs, counting prescriptions, ordering medications and manning the prescription pickup.
What do you like most about your job? And least?
It's great to work with the volunteer pharmacists to solve problems to meet the needs of our patients. Being in the nonprofit sector, it's great to see our organization help the community. The more challenging parts of the job are difficult, uncooperative patients. Since we are volunteer-driven, staffing is occasionally inconsistent.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
Probably the frequent complaint that wait times should be short since we just have to "slap a label on the bottle." In reality we’re checking drug-on-drug interactions, the appropriateness of dosing, billing insurances, and also frequently fixing prescriber errors.
What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?
Like most other careers, there’s a lot of rewarding jobs in pharmacy and there are a lot of stressful unrewarding ones, too. If you’re going to make this a career, you're going to have to strive to stand out to get the more rewarding positions. You’re probably going to start out at the bottom of the ladder, but in my experience, if you keep striving and have the ability, there are good, rewarding positions in this field.
What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
You need good attention to detail, a good mind for problem-solving, patience for working with the public, and the ability to multitask. For those planning on making pharmacy tech a career, the ambition to stand out and get noticed for the better positions is a must. Be willing to work those extra shifts, or to work at other pharmacies within your chain or hospital system.
What are some of the risks and rewards of the work you do?
There’s not a lot of risk in this kind of work. Oncology and nuclear pharmacy occasionally deal with toxic substances, and working with the public has risks in the age of COVID. Even outside of nonprofit work, it's rewarding to help patients improve their health.
Why would you recommend that someone go into this line of work?
Being a pharmacy tech can be a very rewarding job. It's satisfying to solve complicated problems while learning about medicine. You get to play a small part in healing and treating patients. Generally speaking, I enjoy working with pharmacists as a group of people.