Demand for pharmacy technicians, staff remains high in Southwest Washington

Clark College relaunched its pharmacy technician program this past fall after the program was placed on a one-year hiatus during a time of budget reductions

Courtesy of Clark College

After being placed on a one-year hiatus during a time of budget reductions at the college, Clark College’s pharmacy technician program was relaunched this past fall. The relaunch came at a time when the Portland/Vancouver area continues to see a huge need for pharmacy technicians, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During the hiatus year, Dr. Brenda Walstead, dean of business and health sciences at Clark College, said that the pharmacy tech advisory committee continued to meet and plan for the future of the program. She said the advisory committee’s members are employers who depend on the program to graduate well-qualified pharmacy technicians and they want Clark College graduates.

“The voices of employers were listened to by the president of the college, Dr. Karin Edwards, and we were supported in bringing the program back,” Walstead said. “The demand for pharmacy technicians is so great in our community that during the hiatus year, we were able to hire a director for the program to begin fall of 2021. We are very fortunate to have Heidi Fay as the director. We are excited to see this program grow and meet the ever-growing demands of our clinical partners as the need for pharm techs has grown exponentially.”

Although there continues to be a tremendous need for pharmacy technicians in the Portland/Vancouver area, Professor Heidi Fay (director of the pharmacy tech program) said that unfortunately, they do not have the number of applicants to the program that they had years ago.

“Our current cohort is the smallest we have had since before I began in 2009,” Fay said. “Due to the workforce need in our area we are hoping to fill all empty spots for a spring cohort in April 2022. With so many employers desperate for technicians, even offering sign-on bonuses, we need to do our part and get students trained and job-ready.”

Courtesy of Clark College

Walstead said employers are feeling the same effect, and the need for pharmacy techs is what many would call a “crisis mode.” She said she has been meeting regularly with the PeaceHealth Southwest COO and his team, as well as leads at Vancouver Clinic and Legacy Health to see how they can collaborate together to grow Clark College’s program and provide the workforce their clinical partners need in order to meet the demands of the community.

“We have partners in our community, such as those mentioned above, and we also have a great working relationship with Workforce Southwest Washington, all who care so much about the health of our community,” Walstead said. “I feel so privileged in my job to be able to work with such outstanding community members who want our community to be healthy.”

Since relaunching the pharmacy tech program, Fay said they have not changed any program requirements. However, they are working toward accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists organization. The changes they need to make for this include an increase in lab hours, which she said will benefit students and employers who hire the program’s trained technicians.

Currently, Fay said there are 11 students in the program’s fall cohort. They have room for 24 students per cohort and she said that they hope to attract close to that number for the spring. Currently, Fay said they don’t know exact numbers for spring because many students are finishing up prerequisites this quarter and winter quarter in anticipation of a spring start. If a student is interested in the pharmacy tech program, she said it’s important to apply to the college and to the program to get added to the list, while completing necessary prerequisites.

The Clark College pharmacy tech program is 15-18 months for the Certificate of Proficiency and 21-24 months for the Associate of Applied Technology degree in pharmacy technician leadership.

Courtesy of Clark College

“In the past, most graduates found work within six months of successfully completing the program,” Fay said. “With the market the way it is, I anticipate all our current students will find a job before the end of the program in June, pending successful completion of the program.”

To learn more about the pharmacy technician program at Clark College and to find out how to apply for the program, visit here. Prior to applying for the pharmacy tech program, remember to apply to Clark College. Find out how to apply for admission to the college here.

Joanna Yorke-Payne
Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start

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