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Sam the owner-pharmacist, was baffled. He couldn’t induce one employee
to agree to work with his long-standing friend and colleague pharmacist to
cover for an upcoming vacation he had booked. The colleague had worked
at the pharmacy before in short locum shifts. The dispensary technician
conjured up a polite excuse. The shop assistants-all four of them, grumbled
and shunned the request. The intern looked worried but said little.
It was as if some calamity had struck! What was the problem? Sam soon
The interesting issue in this case, was
that the pharmacist involved had never
made a ‘mistake’ per se. Nor were there
incidents where formal complaints were
made about him. His only problem was
that he couldn’t be bothered. He just
didn’t care. Patients were handed out
their bags of medicines with him sitting
behind the dispensary. No greeting, no
answering of questions, no counselling,
and no customer service whatsoever.
Assistants and helpers were simply
ignored. The level of complacency and
carelessness annoyed everyone on staff.
The issue of greater concern was his
outdated knowledge. His attitude
towards life-long learning was that
it was ‘unnecessary and boring’.
Pharmacy learning was done and dusted
in undergraduate studies a long while
back. When it comes to continuing
education requirements, he joked that he
always found a way to wander off from
sessions he had to enrol in to clock up his
Staff learned to put up with the strange
attitude and behaviour, as long as he
was called in only occasionally for locum
shifts. The matter came to a head when
Sam, the owner, wanted to employ him
full time for a longer stint. He finally
found out the full story when he pressed
his dispensary technician for more
details. Sam did not know how to handle
the situation, at first thinking his staff
was being fickle.
Points to consider
On reflection however, there are a few
important points for Sam to consider.
First and foremost to consider is the
safety and wellbeing of his clientele.
Principle 1 in the Code of Ethics states:
1. A pharmacist recognises the health
and wellbeing of the consumer as their
A pharmacist will utilise expert knowledge
and provide care in a compassionate and
The pharmacist had neither expert
knowledge nor compassion or a
professional manner. With a so-called
professional who does not believe in
lifelong learning, and with the speed of
today’s progress in all things related to
healthcare, one cannot afford to take
such a risk. It is an ethical and legal
requirement of renewal of practice
licensure; not something to joke about.
Principle 6 of the Code of Ethics states:
6. A pharmacist maintains a
contemporary knowledge of pharmacy
practice and ensures health and
competence to practise.
A pharmacist will recognise the
importance of lifelong learning and
self-development and their impact on
professional competence. Further, a
pharmacist is responsible for ensuring
personal health to practise and supporting
health professional colleagues in
» ETHICAL DILEMMAS
Dr Betty Chaar is Senior Lecturer and MPharm
Co-ordinator at the Faculty of Pharmacy,
The University of Sydney. Opinions expressed
in this column are not necessarily those of the
Pharmaceutical Society, its Board or staff.
‘Personal health’ in this context refers
to impairment, which in turn implies
mental health. Sam might wish to
establish whether his old friend’s apathy
towards professional responsibilities is
indicative of a state of depression, or
whether there exists another underlying
problem his friend is suffering from.
There needs to be clarity about this
issue, as there are legal implications for
Sam if he turns a blind eye to what he
has just learned about his colleague.
And even if reluctant, it might be in
his friend’s best interests to report him
under the mandatory reporting system
With these very important issues in the
balance, what should Sam do?
First and foremost Sam should talk to
his friend and colleague. To start ethical
decision making we need to start with
the facts – these facts could change the
direction of the decision. Once the facts
are known to both Sam and his friend,
the pathway is clearer. Sam must make
the decision with the best interests of
his clientele and his staff in mind, as
well as the wellbeing of his colleague –
and the fact that he needs a locum.
If he finds his friend in denial or takes
the issues raised too lightly, it becomes
Sam’s duty to report this attitude and
behaviour to AHPRA for authorities to
delve further and establish what needs
to be done. If the colleague changes
his attitude, reflects on his behaviour
and makes an effort to change,
the conversation and open dialogue
would have taken a good turn for all
This would be a good outcome.
An old friend
BY DR BETTY CHAAR
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