Quietly self-assured, Lisa Makara has always followed her instincts – and they haven’t let her down. Today, she’s an outstanding Production Technician and a proud mum, with a return to her studies on the horizon. She shares why she thrives on the challenge of precision, in a role that she considers to be a great responsibility.
Meet Lisa Makara
Embracing high stakes: life as a Production Technician
Lisa Makara is one of the fantastic Production Technicians at our compounding facility in Geebung, Queensland, which operate under the Slade Health brand. Working in a team of 30, Lisa and her colleagues are responsible for producing precise medication doses for cancer patients. Over three sessions lasting two and a half hours, the technicians perform a synchronised dance to carefully formulate life-saving medication, including chemotherapy. On a given day, Lisa could be conducting any one of the three roles within the team: picking (assembling the products required for each patient), compounding (producing the individualised chemotherapy for a patient) or assisting compounding (which entails sterilising equipment and calculating substance quantities). From the moment she clocks on, everything Lisa does centres around the patients who will ultimately receive the medication she produces.
“We need to take extreme care to ensure we’re working in a sterile environment and to compound medication as safely as possible. Patients are already immunocompromised so we need to maintain an aseptic environment to prevent any contamination, as it could be detrimental to their health. We decontaminate every single product before it goes into the clean room, and again as it’s being used.”
The ‘clean room’ is a pressurised environment at the highest room sterility level. Before she even enters the clean room, Lisa must go through a 15 minute ritual in which she’ll pass through sterile environments at increasing levels of decontamination, kitting herself up along the way, in her surgical scrubs, mask, gloves, Birkenstocks, shoe covers and a hazmat style suit.
What does it take to be a Production Technician?
Working with hazardous materials calls for absolute focus. Lisa is the first to admit that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. But if you’re a perfectionist, enjoy routine and embrace the critical importance of your work, it might just be the perfect career for you.
“You need to be self-motivated to persevere through a large volume of what some may consider repetitive work. It also requires a high level of attention to detail; we check and double check doses and their concentrations. It’s not a place you can take shortcuts.”
“Finally, it’s important to have compassion for the patients, as this motivates us to maintain the incredibly high standards required to produce life-saving medications like chemotherapy.”
Listening to Lisa, it’s clear that the patients are her key source of motivation.
“Our role is integral to patients. We’re constantly considering their needs in our day-to-day work. It’s a high level of responsibility – the patients are at risk and so are you. You need to be vigilant and cautious. It’s a high-pressure environment – it’s certainly not boring. I embrace the responsibility.”
Teamwork and growth
While her role requires intense concentration at times, Lisa is quick to remind us that she still has plenty of opportunity to get to know her colleagues.
“Some drugs take time to reconstitute – so we’re able to have a chat as we work. You’re always paired up, so it encourages you to get to know your team. I previously had bad social anxiety when I started, but because I’m often in a quiet room with another person, my social skills have improved significantly. We work with people of a variety of backgrounds, so I’m really enjoying learning about different cultures and religions. We talk and laugh – it’s a fun and positive environment. It’s really helped me to overcome my social anxiety.”
In addition to helping her develop as an individual, Lisa’s role has evidently given her an opportunity to refine the pharmaceutical technical skills she’s been learning at university.
“Working in Icon’s compounding division has greatly developed my skills as a Production Technician when it comes to producing a high-quality output efficiently while incorporating aseptic techniques.”
Lisa started a biomedical degree at the University of the Sunshine coast in 2013, transferring to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and changing to a pharmacy degree when she joined Icon’s compounding division – Slade Health – in 2015. She’s currently deferring her studies while she invests time in the practical side of her career, but she says she’s excited to return to university in the near future, with a view to continue her professional growth at Icon.
“This is a fantastic company to work for – the support is amazing. I really enjoy being part of production, however I’m looking forward to developing my career here. I’d like to eventually step up as a Trainer or Senior Technician.”