Health and bioscience high school will offer students state's first simulation pharmacy

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter


photoClick to enlarge.
photoClark College pharmacy student Candy Pfannes gets hands-on training at Clark’s new simulation pharmacy at the Washington State University Vancouver campus.


photo When it opens in the fall, the model pharmacy at Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School will be the state's first high school pharmacy training program.


Clark College’s pharmacy programs

360-992-2075 or Clark College


Program length: 3 quarters including two 120-hour practicums

Certificate of Proficiency

Median wage: $17.20 per hour or about $35,776 annually


Program length: 2-3 years

Degree: Associate in Applied Technology

Median wage: information not available

Geared for those who want to be the lead technician in a large pharmacy.


Clark offers online baccalaureate options with Central Washington University.


Degree: PharmD, Doctor of Pharmacy

Program length: about 6 years

Area programs: Washington State University, University of Washington, OHSU, Pacific University

Entry salary: $87,000-$100,000

On the Web

Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School

When Evergreen Public Schools' Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School opens in the fall, it will house the state's first high school students exploring pharmacy careers in a simulation pharmacy.

The program was made possible by a $50,000 state grant and the involvement of a cadre of leaders in Clark County's pharmacy community, including directors of pharmacy education programs at Clark College and PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and pharmacists working in the field. The committee discussed equipment and types of settings that could be simulated to give students a feel for real jobs in the field.

The high-demand grant from the state's Office of Superintendent for Public Instruction is being used to develop instructional framework for a model pharmacy program that may be replicated by high schools throughout the state.

"Students at HeLa High will have a chance to see if they truly want to pursue pharmacy as a profession," said Susan Dixon, who has led Evergreen Public Schools' effort to plan both the pharmacy space and the groundbreaking curriculum.

"It's really exciting for high school students to be able to track into their dedicated careers," said Dawn Shults, a HeLa High committee member. Shults, a pharmacy technician, graduated from Clark's pharmacy tech program and now heads the college's pharmacy technology department.

"This collective of K-12, higher ed and business and industry pharmacy leaders have contributed to provide pathways for students to pursue pharmacy careers, to ensure quality education that is industry specific and that meets industry standards," said HeLa planning committee member Blake Bowers, dean of business and health services at Clark College.

The pharmacy program at HeLa High will be a preparatory program to give students a taste of pharmacy careers.

"We wanted to ensure HeLa has what it needs to teach pharmacy well and to give students a feel for what it's like to work in both a retail pharmacy and a hospital pharmacy," said committee member Donna Feild, director of Pharmacy/Cancer Services/Specialty Clinics at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

"It's helpful to have this type of program for students who are considering going into pharmacy," said Feild, who added that HeLa High students will have a chance to try out a potential career path to see whether it's a good fit before investing college tuition and time.

Pharmacy at Clark

After graduation, HeLa High students can train for a pharmacy career at Clark College, which offers a one-year pharmacy technician certificate, the two-year Associate of Applied Technology degree or a baccalaureate online through Central Washington University.

Last fall, thanks to two other grants, Clark College's pharmacy technology program moved into its new space, including a simulation pharmacy at the Clark College building at Washington State University Vancouver. Students divide their time between class time, getting hands-on practice in the school's mock simulation pharmacy and then learning in actual pharmacies in practicums under the direction of a pharmacist. The program accepts 24 students twice annually. "We normally get more students than we can accommodate," said Debbie Ortiz, director of Allied Health.

The trend is for large pharmacies to hire fewer pharmacists but more pharmacy technicians. If a pharmacy has 12 techs, someone needs to be the lead tech. That led the college's advisory committee to create the pharmacy tech leadership program, which takes two years. Shults said she is not aware of other community college offering this program.

Employment outlook

The demand for trained pharmacy technicians is increasing. As health care becomes more technically complex, well-educated, skilled support personnel are required. About 6,000 pharmacy technicians work in the state, with projected growth of 28 percent — or 1,680 additional positions — by 2019.

Pharmacy technicians work in hospitals, outpatient facilities and retail pharmacies and assist pharmacists in dispensing medications, assist with compounding and IV drug preparation, take inventory and more.

Becoming a licensed pharmacist requires earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which takes about six years of college. A starting salary for a pharmacist ranges from $87,000 to $100,000. Pharmacists work in community pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care, home health, public health, veterinary medicine, drug research and development, academia and more.

Shults of Clark College agreed. "In my experience, most students walk into our program thinking that what a pharmacy tech does is count pills. It's exciting when students discover there is so much more: making compounds, cancer treatment and IV admixture. It will be really good for HeLa High students to get a taste of what a pharmacy technician really is, and be motivated by that."

The HeLa High reality factor will not include working with real drugs, Feild said. Instead, empty drug bottles will be used to teach students how to label prescriptions.

"When PeaceHealth does a mock-up pharmacy activity, we use M&Ms," Feild said.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;