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Strong medicine: Health Care grad bolsters career training with double dose of certifications

May 21, 2019

Sharmaine San Juan, Red River CollegeSharmaine San Juan has her finger on the pulse of the Canadian health-care system.

San Juan, who is from Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines, graduated from Red River College’s Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk programs in February 2018.

Upon finishing school, San Juan, 24, immediately obtained employment as nursing assistant at Health Sciences Centre. She currently works as a pharmacy assistant at Keewatin Medical Centre & Pharmacy, as well as at Medisystem Pharmacy.

“In my current career as a pharmacy assistant, (my RRC training) benefitted me a lot because I was exposed to hospital and home-care settings, and that gave me a lot of experience in a fast-paced environment. Also, I gained knowledge of medical terminology and processing physician’s orders,” says San Juan.

“Before, as a nursing assistant, I transcribed medications on a Medication Administration Record sheet. We learned this during the Health Unit Clerk program, the drugs, generic and brand names, the acronyms for drugs, the proper time for administering medications, and also the proper drugs for some diseases.”

Before coming to Canada, San Juan studied pre-med at De La Salle University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology before moving straight to a post-graduate degree from the College of Medicine at the Health Sciences Institute in the Philippines.

In her current role as a pharmacy assistant, San Juan says she performs such tasks as counting and dispensing drugs, maintaining proper drug storage and security, packing and labeling medications, and entering patient information and prescriptions into a computer system.

“I chose to study at Red River College because of what they can offer. They are known for having a high success rate in vocational courses, which is beneficial to people who are seeking fast employment,” she says.

“I chose Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk because I think this is the closest to my field, being exposed to patients in a hospital setting. They are also in-demand programs which will benefit me in getting employment fast — that will also help get me through my permanent residency.”

San Juan says she thoroughly enjoyed her time at RRC, in particular the supports extended by both instructors and classmates.

“My experience at the College was phenomenal because from the moment I enrolled, they assisted me,” she says. “I met great mentors on day one. They encouraged us to gain experience by being exposed to the community, such as volunteering.

“The program prepared us with a practicum in different personal care homes. We even went to the hospital in Selkirk for our Health Unit Clerk clinical practicum. By doing all this hands-on, on-the-job training, it made us skilled and confident.”

In addition to the Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk programs, San Juan studied at RRC’s Language Training Centre, located in Union Station on Main Street.

“In the intensive English class, my teacher was Mona Abu-Ghoush. I have to say her name because she was one of my close mentors when I moved here. She made my life and class easier,” San Juan says.

“It (the Language Training Centre) helped me a lot. We’re all international students, so basically we’re family here helping each other.”

San Juan says moving to a new country and learning a new culture can be quite trying, even terrifying, noting she once had her wallet and phone stolen while waiting for a bus near the Health Sciences Centre.

Still, she doesn’t regret moving to Winnipeg for a second.

“I don’t regret it because it’s the life I chose and it has made me who I am,” she says. “I wouldn’t be able to be wise if I didn’t experience the hard work, the hard winter, waiting for the bus, stuff like that. This is the stuff that makes us who we are.”

Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)