New Sterile Lab Gives Tech Pharmacy Students an Edge
With the completion of a new sterile laboratory, the Texas Tech University Health
Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Pharmacy will be able to offer its students a specialized
type of training that no other pharmacy school in Texas can provide.
Dr. Mikala Conatser, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the school, will
use the new facility to teach second-year pharmacy students in Amarillo how to perform
sterile compounding, a process she describes as manufacturing medication products
that will be introduced into a patient intravenously or through similar methods.
Because these types of medications must be produced in the cleanest possible environments
by specially trained staff, sterile rooms must pass an air particle count, a bacterial
growth test and meet other requirements specified by United States Pharmacopeia (USP)
Conatser said she has been unable to locate a similar facility at any other pharmacy
school in the country.
“Other schools do offer a sterile compounding course, but this new lab has really
raised the bar,” Conatser said. “Each student has their own hood to compound in and
they are taught with great detail the proper steps in the process. They garb, wash
their hands, clean their hoods and new techniques/processes are introduced each week
to help build their foundation as the semester progresses. At the end of the course
students will be able to easily compound without risk or fear of needle sticks or
Dr. Thomas Thekkumkara, regional dean for the School of Pharmacy in Amarillo, said
the school paid $520,000 to convert the roughly 2,000-square-foot space from classroom
to laboratory. The main room contains 26 individual workstations with hoods where
students are taught to perform proper sterile procedures. The laboratory space is
located at the site of a former classroom on the second floor of the main School of
Pharmacy building on the TTUHSC campus. The classroom was moved to the school’s Pharmacy
Academic Center when that building opened in 2010.
The School of Pharmacy in Abilene has also constructed a sterile laboratory to teach
second-year students enrolled on its campus.
Conatser said the sterile laboratory provides Texas Tech pharmacy students with an
advantage when they graduate and enter the work force.
“Students who are interested in a hospital-based career will already have a good base
knowledge of the sterile compounding process and will be able to easily adapt that
to their workplace,” Conatser said. “Students involved in a retail setting will also
benefit from the process as they will become more at ease with using needles and pulling
up medications, facilitating their ability to give vaccinations to their patients.”
Conatser said the lab reinforces important sterile compounding techniques that students
previously could only simulate.
“I’ve talked to members of my own graduating class and other students who took this
course before the new lab was built and they feel this facility will greatly improve
knowledge retention,” Conatser said. “I believe the repetition of performing standard
tasks and not having to pretend, but actually being able to sanitize their own work
space and make sterile products in each and every lab will be very beneficial in the
long run to our students and their future patients.”
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