Even as a small child, Manuela Meza knew she wanted a career in health care. By the time she entered high school, she had decided becoming a pharmacy professional was the right fit—and she’s never looked back. Now a certified pharmacy technician at Avita’s onsite pharmacy at Valley Community Healthcare (VCH) in North Hollywood, California, and an instructor teaching the next generation of technicians, Manuela says the pharmacy is a fundamental part of her life.
“I’m passionate about pharmacy, and it brings me a lot of satisfaction,” she says. “I love sharing my knowledge with my coworkers. And the experiences I live at the pharmacy each day are transferred to my students.”
A career journey that’s spanned international borders and specialties
Manuela greets patients, VCH clinical staff, and her Avita team members with a unique global perspective on providing compassionate pharmacy care. She came to the United States in 2008 after serving as a pharmacist in her home country of Guatemala for more than five years. When the shift from being a foreign pharmacist to one registered by the California State Board of Pharmacy became more complicated than she expected, Manuela decided a career reroute was in order: In 2009, she graduated again, this time as a certified pharmacy technician.
It’s a journey she often relates to her students, offering them tips for avoiding some of the obstacles she experienced. “I love to help students find affordable or free pharmacy technician programs so they can avoid the expensive school loans I faced,” she says. “I’m also here to guide them through the licensing process so they can start working in this awesome field as soon as possible.”
3 personal traits a pharmacy tech can’t do without
The hard and soft skills a pharmacy technician needs to serve patients successfully go way beyond clinical expertise, Manuela says. Here’s her list of the three most important traits a tech can bring to the counter:
- Excellent customer service and patient care: “Customer care is a vital trait in a pharmacy practice,” Manuela says. “The connection we make with our patients is what differentiates one pharmacy from another.” Compassion is key, she explains. “I always tell my students we must treat our patients with more empathy than any other field. Often, they come in feeling sick, sad, depressed, angry, or disappointed. It’s our job to make them feel good and let them know we’re here to help them improve their health. That means being good listeners, always showing patients respect, and making them feel comfortable so they want to come back.”
- Top-notch multitasking and organizational skills: “A pharmacy technician’s job involves a variety of skill sets they must leverage during their shift, including answering phones, taking care of customers, billing insurance, and preparing medications,” Manuela says. “I’ve taught my students that techs are constantly doing multiple tasks simultaneously—they have to organize and prioritize each one, then perform them in order of importance.”
- Problem-solving prowess: “Techs are the right hands of pharmacists, and they rely on us to perform many duties under their supervision,” Manuela says. “We need to try to solve problems ourselves first. I always encourage my students to be proactive and participate in making decisions that are legal to perform as technicians. If a problem requires the pharmacist’s knowledge, ask them. Otherwise, allow them to focus on the tasks only they can perform, like counseling patients.”
Embracing what makes each patient different
Whether caring for patients at the pharmacy or teaching future pharmacy techs the ropes, Manuela places cultural competency on an extremely high pedestal. “Every day, we get to work in a diverse environment full of different cultures, languages, and sexual preferences,” she says. “All these things need nothing else from us but to be respected.”
As a pharmacy tech serving historically marginalized patients facing countless barriers to health care access, Manuela goes above and beyond to ensure that everyone who walks in the door feels seen and heard. “We must ensure we always provide equal service to all our patients, that the discrimination they face outside does not make its way inside our doors,” she says. “It’s by seeking to understand the needs of our patients that we can help them achieve medication adherence and compliance and ultimately improve their health.