October 18-24 is National Pharmacy Week. Each year we celebrate Pharmacy Week to acknowledge the invaluable contributions that pharmacists and technicians make to improve patient care throughout the care spectrum. We recently sat down with a few members of our pharmacy team to learn more about their experience in pharmacy and working at Option Care Health. Keep reading to learn more about:
- Jamie Broome, Pharmacy Technician Supervisor, St. Louis, MO
- Jessica-Anne Chelbda, Certified Pharmacy Technician Supervisor, Providence, RI
- Brad Van Egdom, Compounding Pharmacy Technician, Lincoln, NE
- Constantine (Gus) Vergidis, Pharmacy Director, New York, NY
OCH: Tell us about how you chose to begin your career in pharmacy and how you came to work in home infusion pharmacy?
JC: Prior to working for OCH, I worked for a long-term care facility where we would bubble pack medications. We also had an IV room which is where my compounding journey started. It was very different than what we compound here. The process was more simplistic, comprised mainly of syringes and easy bags of medication. When I started at OCH, I was introduced to all kinds of administration methods that I had never seen before because home care is very different than in a long-term care facility where someone is taking care of you. In that environment, I was dealing mostly with nurses who would infuse the medication for the patient. I believe home infusion is where I would like to settle in my career, it’s by far my favorite pharmacy endeavor that I’ve come across in my ten years of experience.
JB: I began my career as a pharmacy technician in a hospital. I worked at a couple of different hospitals and a former colleague of mine called me about an opening at OCH. I wasn’t looking for a job at the time, but it seemed like an interesting opportunity. I really like working in both the cleanroom and in the hospital. I had never heard of a home infusion pharmacy before but it was a great opportunity and I’m glad I took it.
CV: I began my pharmacy career in home infusion. I actually began my career as a pharmacy intern at Rite-Aid but accepted my first role at Option Care Health within the first year after obtaining my license as a staff pharmacist. Pharmacy school is a long commitment and retail pharmacy doesn’t lend itself to using all of the education I received when becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy. In retail, you only get to see one part of the patient’s picture and with home infusion, you get to see the entire picture of the patient’s health journey. So you’re able to track their progress, ensure that therapy is working, and help them transition off of service because they’ve gotten better.
BV: I’m the one who’s making the actual medication so there’s a lot on my shoulders. I have to make sure I’m making the product accurately and safely. I’m thinking of the patients when I’m doing this –what if it was my mom or dad, grandma, or grandpa?– I’d want it to be as perfect and safe as possible. I try to be very detailed and ensure there are no issues or problems when compounding every drug.
OCH: What made you decide to become a pharmacy technician/pharmacist?
JC: About ten years ago I was going to nursing school, but then life happened. My plans changed and I was doing some research on different fields in healthcare that I would enjoy. I was looking for something that would be hands-on but would require less face-to-face time with patients. I looked into a pharmacy technician training program and attended Lincoln Technical Institute in Lincoln, RI. That gave me the boost I needed to see that there were very different types of pharmacy roles across the board. It’s more than just a retail pharmacy where you would go pick up your medication – that’s not the only option you have as a pharmacy technician to find work. It seemed to me that there were a lot of different options and that I would be able to navigate my way through those options as I became more experienced until I found something I truly had a passion for.
JB: I was thinking about going to pharmacy school but was concerned with the time commitment and wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it. I started at my community college and decided to transfer in my first semester to pharmacy technician studies instead.
CV: The choice to become a pharmacist was easy. I’ve always wanted to help people, especially the sick and needy. I originally wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer but landed on pharmacy because I’m still able to impact the patient. I was also intrigued by the pharmacy growing up and that transitioned into my career later in life.
BV: I actually started my career in retail and I was asked if I’d want to move into pharmacy which wasn’t something I originally thought I’d be into. I didn’t really have any experience before, but I was looking for something new. Whenever I have the opportunity to challenge myself and try something new, I tend to go after it. So that’s what I did and I ended up really liking it. I ended up looking for something to broaden my horizons and applied here at OCH. I was a little nervous at first because it was an entirely new area of pharmacy but I’ve loved it ever since. Every day is different and it’s more varied than a retail pharmacy. I just really like being here.
OCH: How do you deliver hope to our patients?
JC: I think one of my favorite parts about working with Option Care Health is seeing the patient progress through the compounding process. We compound a lot of pediatric total parenteral nutrition (TPN) at our branch and when I first came to this branch, we had a newborn who needed TPN seven days a week. The newborn’s mother was dealing with high stress and anxiety, and now, it’s been probably two years since the patient started on service with us, and they only need TPN three days a week. Seeing that progress throughout the years is really rewarding. To see someone get better, from somebody who needed TPN seven days a week to sustain their life, to someone who can get their nutrition from a source other than a TPN bag, by eating regular foods and drinking regular drinks, is very rewarding. Watching the required doses drop from seven to three and hearing the confidence in the parents as they become familiar with how to take care of their sick child is just so rewarding.
JB: When we’re making the drugs, we see patient names week after week. We don’t really get to know the patients but we do get to know their names. If we notice we haven’t seen a patient in a couple of weeks, we’ll ask about what’s going on. It’s neat to see pediatric patients get off of services because they’ve improved or they had a transplant and no longer need our services. It’s nice to know that we played a part in them getting better and we made safe medication for them and made a difference in their care.
CV: Delivering hope has always been top-of-mind for myself and the other pharmacists I work with. Providing hope is letting a patient know where they currently stand but also reassuring them that OCH is planning for them to get better and sharing what that looks like. We are delivering the medication for these patients, providing a high standard of care, and making sure they’re receiving appropriate treatment while ensuring their safety at home.
BV: I try to put myself in their shoes. The people we are trying to help every day are ill and they may not have a lot of hope in their situation. So if we can make things easier for them and provide the medication they need on time, they don’t have to worry about that and can count on Option Care Health. That’s how we deliver hope.
OCH: What makes being a pharmacy technician/pharmacist at Option Care Health special?
JC: My favorite part is TPN. I’m able to see the progress in our patients and know that I’m personally impacting their overall health. One of the things I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing is working really closely with our Area Clinical Director (ACD), Craig. All of OCH went through the ACHC accreditation surveys and Craig has been a great resource. He always listens to the technicians, truly takes into consideration any suggestions we may have, best practices, streamlining processes, etc. I’ve been working with him on updating some of the forms that are used in the OCH pharmacy and I have great pride in working with him as our ACD in the Northeast.
JB: There’s a lot of trust between the pharmacist and the pharmacy technician. They oversee our work to ensure it’s accurate, but we are the experts when it comes to compounding the medication. We know the proper way to hold a syringe, we know what typical doses are and we know how to reconstitute meds. If we notice something is unusual, we go to the pharmacist and let them know before moving forward because of our expertise in making IVs.
CV: I have the best leadership at OCH. I can reach out to them for guidance or assistance whenever I need to ensure our branch has everything we need. That great leadership is what makes us special because they truly care about us and always ensure that we have everything to provide extraordinary care for our patients. That’s what really sets us apart.
BV: The different opportunities I have here makes a real difference. I feel like we all mean something to the company and I really appreciate that.
OCH: Tell me about working in a pharmacy setting during the pandemic?
JC: When the pandemic first hit, there was a lot of uncertainty throughout the country. Working in a sterile environment, it honestly became scary. One of the great things OCH did is that they started making sure that each facility was environmentally testing their room more frequently to ensure that our cleaning procedures were working effectively. This way, we ensured that we had removed the possibility of creating any room for additional bacteria to grow. At first, things were quite nerve-wracking but seeing that we’ve been environmentally testing our rooms with no positive cultures on any of these tests really goes to show how thoroughly the technicians pay attention to what they’re doing, and that they’re being extra cautious to ensure everything is sterile. The extra precautions that OCH has put into effect have eased a lot of that worry I had before.
JB: We were very clean before and now we’re cleaning even more. I didn’t even know that was possible! It was really nice to know that I would still have my job. When so many people were uncertain if they would be let go or if they could count on their paycheck, I was thankful to know I had one every week. It was a huge relief that with everything else to worry about, I still had a steady job. We actually received a thank you note from a mom who was worried about how her child would receive our medication and the fact that we took the stress off of her shoulders just felt so good. We were proud to be able to provide the proper patient care throughout all of the uncertainty.
CV: COVID-19 obviously had a huge impact on the world and especially New York City. Being in this area during the pandemic has really changed healthcare, our perspectives on what remains consistent and any questions of what’s to come. We have enacted policies and procedures to keep our team members safe at all times: practicing social distancing and wearing masks to keep ourselves and families safe. Being in the epicenter has really led us to work better together because we’ve realized that we’re coming into work to help people and we’ve come together to support the needs of others throughout the pandemic. I feel fortunate to work on this team in New York and to provide care for our patients every day.
BV: I am really proud of how OCH handled the pandemic. As soon as we had an idea that this was going to be a pretty big deal, we began stocking up on things we’d need to use every day. We began working on updating policies and procedures to not only keep employees safe but patients as well. Option Care Health’s leadership did such a great job preparing and handling the pandemic because it has had little to no impact on my personal life.
OCH: Do you have plans to celebrate Pharmacy Week?
JC: I was thinking here at the CMC we could maybe coordinate our outfits or something fun and out-of-the-box to show we’re united and stand out as a team. We truly enjoy what we do to keep our patients healthy and safe.
JB: Yes, we’re going to paste pictures of the pharmacy staff around the office with their face on a superhero’s body and see how many of our team members can find because we are superheroes and want to recognize our team members as such.
CV: In honor of this monumental year we’ve had, we’re celebrating it as Essential Worker Day because we’ve all played a major role. Obviously, the pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will stand out, but we’re going to recognize the entire branch. Our essential workers came in every day, never skipped a beat to deliver hope for our patients, and made sure we took the proper precautions to keep moving forward throughout this unprecedented time.
BV: I think we’re planning to have a nice lunch with the team. It’s been a little more stressful with everything that’s going on but it’s nice to have a moment to sit back, relax, and just celebrate ourselves.
OCH: What does Pharmacy Strong mean to you?
JC: Being Pharmacy Strong is not an individual thing, a lot of teamwork goes into what we do day in and day out. Including pharmacists, we have to work together every day to ensure that we are doing everything appropriately for our patients’ safety. The teamwork behind the pharmacy is what being “Pharmacy Strong” means to me. We really love what we do here at OCH and with so many moving parts, we all need to work together to make sure our patients have a positive experience.
CV: To me, being “Pharmacy Strong” means that we all work collaboratively as one team with one goal: patients come first. We come together, collaborate, and work for our patients as a team to ensure the best care for our patients.
BV: I think that as a group, we are all strong individuals. When you work in the pharmacy, you could have a lot coming at you from all different directions and the team is outstanding. I can trust everybody and I know we all come in every day and give 100%. There can be a lot of weight on our shoulders but we all jump in to help out and make sure the patient is cared for at the end of the day.
OCH: Do you have any final thoughts to share?
JC: Working for OCH overall, I feel like there is a lot of room for growth. In general, there is a lot of room for growth in pharmacy with a lot of different roles that you can encounter as a technician. Just here at OCH, we have warehouse technicians, pump management technicians, clinical technicians who are contacting patients, and compounding technicians. There are just so many opportunities for a pharmacy technician to perform at OCH and in pharmacy in general. When you find the right one, it’s just so rewarding and there’s no limit to your growth within pharmacy itself.
CV: Passionate people make up this company and we are truly dedicated to providing extraordinary care to all of our patients. We are all here to give the best of ourselves to care for our patients every day and I believe that’s representative of our entire organization.
BV: I think the biggest thing I want to say is that when you’re looking at OCH as a company and potential place to work, it can be intimidating for both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians because it’s unlike anywhere they’ve worked previously. It’s something different every day. You can walk in the door and be proud of where you work and love your job. Take the chance, it’s worth it.