Elizabeth Baldwin, CPhT-Adv, began her pharmacy technician career by chance but soon grew to love the profession. She's now recognized as one of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board's (PTCB) first 1,000 advanced pharmacy technicians.
Steady career advancement
Baldwin was working as a part-time cashier for Hy-Vee grocery store in Lamoni, Iowa, in 2015 when she asked the management about a full-time job. A few months later, they told her they had an opening as a pharmacy technician in Hy-Vee’s pharmacy. Baldwin learned more about the opportunity and got her pharmacy technician certification by the end of 2016.
Four years later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she moved to the town of Pella. Baldwin transferred to Hy-Vee’s Central Fulfillment Pharmacy in Des Moines, working with robotic dispensers that processed some 50,000 prescriptions daily. When a certified pharmacy technician position opened up at the Pella Hy-Vee Pharmacy, she moved over. She worked for a little over a year doing immunizations, training new hires, and overseeing daily operations.
In October 2021, Baldwin went to Pella Regional Health Center to work as an advanced certified pharmacy technician in the retail pharmacy. There, she developed procedures, trained new hires, created policies for technician immunization, and was responsible for technician scheduling. Following a short break over the summer, she returned to Pella Regional Health as an advanced certified pharmacy technician and administrative assistant/durable medical equipment billing specialist. She now handles durable medical equipment billing, verifying patient insurance coverage, and accounts receivable account management, among other tasks.
“It is very fulfilling work,” Baldwin said of being a technician. “We can all complain about how stressful it is and how our patients don’t always understand why we have to tell them the things we tell them. But when you can help somebody understand…and give them what they need and help them have better health and help them care for themselves, that is very fulfilling to be able to do that.”
Along the way, Baldwin completed several PTCB advanced certificate programs in immunization administration, medication therapy management, medication history, and billing and reimbursement. She had thought about getting advanced certification, but then 2020 and the pandemic happened, “when everything went crazy,” said Baldwin, a member of ASHP and The Pharmacy Technician Society.
Initially, she put off the certifications. But when immunizations for the SARS-CoV-2 virus became available in 2021, Hy-Vee wanted their employed technicians to get trained to do immunizations and covered the costs. From there, Baldwin decided since she already had one certificate toward advanced certification, it made sense to pursue others. When she moved to the hospital-owned retail setting, she completed the other certifications.
PTCB’s acknowledgement of advanced certified pharmacy technicians “highlights the commitment that pharmacy technicians have,” Baldwin said. “One thing I have noticed, generally with the advanced pharmacy technicians that have gotten that rating, they are the ones more thinking outside the box a little bit, taking a little bit more unconventional paths to their career, taking more risks, trying new things. That’s going to help the profession advance overall.”
When it comes to technicians advancing their careers, “Have open, honest communication with your management - advocate for yourself,” Baldwin advised. “Even if you think the idea is silly, throw it out there. See what they think. You might be able to start some new program at your pharmacy and have advancements in your career because of that.”
With burnout being high in the health professions in the wake of the pandemic, Baldwin is a proponent of balancing work and family life.
“Pharmacy technicians, in general, feel a great deal of responsibility to their patients,” Baldwin said. “That can make it very hard to leave work at work because you’re thinking, ‘Did I remember to do this?’ One of the hardest things for me is feeling that level of responsibility and being able to step away from that without feeling guilty but working to the best of your abilities while you’re there, and then coming home and saying, ‘Tomorrow’s a new day. I will pick it up tomorrow, and it will be fine.’”
When Baldwin isn’t at the hospital, one of the activities Baldwin does with her family is work on their food truck. She and her significant other saw a food truck for sale during the town’s annual Tulip Time festival in 2021 and decided to buy it. Now, their family drives the truck to several local events, including Tulip Time, a hot air balloon festival, and county fairs selling carnival-type foods like corn dogs, funnel cakes, and deep-fried Oreos. They’re also famous for their delicious, flavored lemonades.
“It’s been really nice for our kids because they help us in there a lot, so they’ve been able to earn money and learn about having a job and work ethic,” she said. Baldwin’s other hobbies include gardening, cooking, crocheting, and knitting.