When asked to name the most important best practice for a pharmacy technician, Shayla Smith barely pauses to answer. “It’s 100% showing care and compassion to patients,” says Shayla, a lead pharmacy technician at one of Avita’s three locations in Austin, Texas. “They’re coming into the pharmacy because they need something from you. Whether they’re in pain, have a fever, or have just been diagnosed and need to get treatment, they’re looking to you to help and to protect their privacy.”
It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly. “I’m going to go out of my way to put patient care first,” Shayla says. “I will earn that trust.”
Shayla serves patients at an Avita pharmacy located onsite at Kind Clinic, an organization that provides state-of-the-art sexual health services for all people—regardless of race, creed, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. So, it’s imperative that the pharmacy team displays a strong grasp of cultural competency. “We have a lot of patients who are from the LGBTQ+ community, and they come here because they feel safe, comfortable, and seen,” she says.
But showing her advocacy toward this community goes way beyond the pharmacy counter. Shayla’s team attends Pride events and spreads awareness about safe sex and knowing one’s HIV status. “Shayla ALWAYS puts our patients first and understands their individual needs,” says Lauren Quade, an Avita pharmacist-in-charge. “Transgender patients make up a large part of [those we serve], and Shayla always makes them feel safe, welcome, and beautiful.”
"Always be willing to grow."
Embracing educational opportunities plays a key role in Shayla’s ability to offer the best in personalized patient care. “Staying in a state of continual professional development is crucial,” says Shayla, who is PTCB certified, holds licenses as a pharmacy technician in both California and Texas, and works as an adjunct instructor teaching pharmacy technician courses at Southern Careers Institute. “You have to be open to learning all aspects of pharmacy, and you need to always be willing to grow.”
As an adjunct instructor at Southern Careers Institute, teaching the next generation of pharmacy technicians is incredibly meaningful to Shayla. “Helping students understand that the patient is the priority is huge!” she says. “Compassion, diversity, and cultural competency are not something they usually teach you in school—with the exception of my class, of course.”
Shayla not only educates her students about pharmacy concepts like drug names, abbreviations, and pharmaceutical math, she also instructs them about the criticality of the patient-technician connection. “I do practice-oriented examples,” she explains. “I’ll pull up training videos, games, or interactive pharmacy scenarios. Because I can’t stress this enough: There has to be a connection. Patients have to feel comfortable with the people who are dispensing medications that contribute to their health and well-being.”
Stepping up for patients and team members
Shayla’s commitment to her patients, profession, and team members doesn’t go unnoticed; she’s regularly lauded for going above and beyond. In fact, she’s received more than 50 formal recognitions from her colleagues in the past year alone, along with Avita’s Everyday Hero Award (given to a team member who makes a significant impact on a patient, partner, or team member). Here’s just a sampling of what folks are saying about Shayla:
- “One of our patients came to pick up her prescription and was clearly upset about something when she came in. The patient was in tears when she started talking about it, and Shayla stepped outside to console the patient and let her know everything will be all right.”
- “Shayla has a phenomenal rapport with all our patients and our clinic staff and takes time to talk to our patients and see how they are doing. The pharmacy team in Austin has been told numerous times, by our transgender patients in particular, that they do not get the same care and compassion at other pharmacies. They are always delighted to begin filling their prescriptions with us, and Shayla is a huge reason why.”
- “Shayla always shows compassion for our patients. She is good at reading people, and when going over medications and pricing for new prescriptions, she can tell when patients are feeling embarrassed to ask for payment assistance. She goes out of her way to make them feel comfortable and reaches out to the clinic to get them enrolled in payment assistance.”
To sum it up? “Shayla is a great example of empathy and our core value of compassion being put into action,” says Avita CEO Michael Yount.
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