Q&A with Pharmacy Technician and Recent Graduate Student Michael Hernandez
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Riverside, California, and raised in Albuquerque. I have three sisters—two older and one younger. I graduated from Rio Grande High School in 2015 and didn’t think too much about college or a career after that. I’ve spent the past year working at Presbyterian Hospital downtown in Central Supply. We stock and replenish all of the nursing units in the hospital. I’ve developed a large knowledge of medical supplies just from working there. So, I have already been a healthcare worker, but I didn’t have to go to school to become one. The pandemic made me realize that I needed something more secure that required education.
My two older sisters are Carrington alumni who graduated as MAs at the same time that I graduated from high school. That’s how I initially became interested in Carrington. I thought, let me look at the website and see which programs interest me. That was when I came across the Pharmacy Technology program.
What made you so interested in pharmacy technology?
Central Supply is right next door to the pharmacy downtown and I would see the techs in the pharmacy smiling and having a good time. That’s kind of what got my head going in that direction. Then I discovered it was one of the programs that Carrington offered, so that was one of those “oh my gosh” moments. I knew that’s where I am supposed to be.
What motivated you to choose Carrington?
All of my siblings are going to be Carrington graduates. When I enrolled in Carrington this fall, my little sister also enrolled. She is going to become an MA through Carrington just like my older sisters. I’ll be the only pharmacy technician. All of my sisters also work for Presbyterian. My oldest sister works in the COVID mobile unit, so she travels all over Albuquerque doing testing. The second oldest works in orthopedics and I recently got my little sister a job in Central Supply.
What was your favorite part of your program at Carrington?
My favorite part of the program was the labs—just being in the labs and practicing doing things like reconstituting IV bags. We also learned how to compound medicine. We made things like gummy bears, chapstick, and soap. It was so awesome. I mean, I can sit in front of a computer for a little bit, but it’s just not the way I learn. I’m more hands-on, so I really loved the labs.
What is the most challenging part of your program?
The most challenging part was continuing to work full-time and go to school. Then, to deal with family issues, bills, and just life stresses in general. It has been hard with the pandemic and the hospital being short-staffed. Trying to juggle all of those things while trying to also find time for homework, weekly tests, and studying was tough. Then when the externship came around, I still had to work full-time. So I was working around 80 hours a week. I had at least a 4 pack of Red Bull with me every day and coffee to stay awake. It was challenging.
Did you ever want to quit when you were in school?
Oh, there were multiple times when I just wanted to go home and nap! I would think, why did I put myself through this? Sometimes it was, I can’t do this, or I’m done. Now that I look back, it was one of the best decisions that I made to keep going and continue doing what I needed to do to this point.
What got you through the challenging times?
My coworkers. They gave me a lot of encouragement and motivation, telling me I only need to get through a few more hours of work or a few more weeks of school. And then my family had my back 100% the entire time. When I would get home, they would tell me how proud they were of me and how I was doing a great job. They knew I was tired and so they would have made dinner so I could just eat and go to bed. They were very understanding with how much I was putting in outside of the home so they were picking up the slack that I wasn’t able to put in at home. That meant everything to me because my family doesn’t have much but what we do have means a lot to me.
Is there a Carrington instructor or staff member who you would like to acknowledge?
I had two instructors while I was in school. I started with Sierra Armstrong when I got there and she made me feel really comfortable. Then for my last two or three mods, I had Jessica Rhinehart because Sierra was promoted. I didn’t know what to expect, but Jessica came in and stepped right up to the plate. She made me just as comfortable as Sierra. She was a great instructor. I just want to say thank you to both of them. It means everything that they were able to help me gain the knowledge to graduate and to take my national certification test and pass. Everything I studied at Carrington paid off when I needed it to.
Tell us about your current work…
Now that I have passed my PTCB test, I’ll be transitioning from Central Supply to the Inpatient Pharmacy at Presbyterian downtown. This pharmacy is mostly for patients who are staying in the hospital and need medication. It’s not like a Walgreens where you might drive up or go in and pick up your meds and go home. It’s mainly for the ICU, critical care, and orthopedic patients who are coming out of surgery and need medication to manage their pain. What is great is all of my benefits will transfer with me when I go. I did my externship there, so I have been very involved with Presbyterian. It’s a great place to work and it’s a great work environment.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I learned while doing my externship that there are many different roles that you can do within the inpatient pharmacy. You can be in pediatrics one day and then in the operating room pharmacy the next. You can also be in the sterile prep area making IV bags. There are just so many things you can do that it’s not repetitive. I like seeing so many different views of the pharmacy.
How did Carrington prepare you for your career?
Carrington prepared me by giving me the knowledge and confidence that I didn’t know I had before continuing my education. I thought that I was just going to be stuck at entry-level jobs but they gave me all the tools I needed to say that I am a pharmacy technician. They did everything they could to help get me here.
Do you have any advice for people interested in going into your field through Carrington College?
Keep an open mind because there is a lot of variety in pharmacy. Don’t ever say you can’t. You can get through what you think you can’t. You are stronger than you think you are. Carrington is amazing. It is not big like a university. It is smaller and family-oriented. You know everybody that you see. You’re not sitting in a lecture with 300 students feeling anonymous or ignored.