Continuing competence is one of the cornerstones of self-regulation of health professions. It helps ensure that health professionals maintain and improve their level of knowledge and skill, evaluate their own practice, and keep informed about new advancements in their field. Being an active learner is one of ACP’s six tenets of professionalism that engaged pharmacy professionals embody daily.
To help pharmacy professionals meet their responsibilities, ACP has a Continuing Competence Program (CCP), which requires all regulated members to engage in learning activities and implement what they learn into their practice. Regulated members annually complete and then document their learning and implementation in a portfolio when they apply for renewal of their practice permit.
The CCP is overseen by ACP’s competence committee, comprised of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists appointed by Council, who fulfill legislative requirements. The role of the competence committee is to advise the college’s competence director about matters of development, implementation, and maintenance of the CCP.
Pharmacy technician Pam Vipond, now retired, served on the competence committee for three years shortly after pharmacy technicians became regulated health professionals. In the years leading up to regulation, she recognized the value of it and saw possibilities for her profession. She worked with other committee members to advise on the development of the CCP for pharmacy technicians. Outside of her committee work, she took it upon herself to articulate the value of being regulated to some of her peers.
“When technicians first became regulated, it was stormy waters for some individuals,” said Vipond. “Some of them weren’t happy that there would be more expectations required of them as a regulated professional. To me, it made sense to take the time to sit down with them and explain what was going on and the reasons for having to do these things. That’s part of nurturing the profession.”
While serving on the competence committee, Vipond and her colleagues used the feedback provided by regulated members to improve the process and forms regulated members use to submit their annual CCP portfolio to make it more user friendly. When a regulated member submits their portfolio, it may be selected for audit. The competence director appoints regulated members contracted by ACP as peer assessors to audit the portfolios. Pharmacy technician Pam Borth has worked as a peer assessor. Like Vipond, she was inspired to work and learn with others and saw working as a peer assessor as an opportunity to grow professionally and help others do the same.
“Looking at the portfolios, for me it was focusing on helping technicians,” said Borth. “If there were gaps, I tried to give positive feedback to enhance their learning or the way they presented their portfolio.”
In the assessment process, peer assessors determine if a portfolio is satisfactory or not based on criteria outlined in the Pharmacy Technician CCP rules and guide. If the portfolio is unsatisfactory and the non-compliance with the requirements of the CCP is more serious in nature, the competence director will refer the regulated member to the competence committee to determine further action.
“There were lots of things to consider,” said Vipond. “Were all the decisions easy? No, but we had good conversations as a committee to come up with our final decisions about the work the regulated member had to put in to meet the program [CCP] requirements.”
As a committee, Vipond and her colleagues considered where they could direct regulated members to address the deficiencies noted. This is often additional education or coaching provided by a peer. Like Borth, Vipond says that being on the competence committee helped her grow as a professional.
“Serving on the committee made me feel more at ease to bring things to the table,” she said. “For example, pharmacists and technicians sit on the committee, so even when decisions are being made about a pharmacist’s competence case technicians still contribute to the discussion. Early on, I didn’t think I should say anything, but the committee welcomed us to speak up. As time moved on, I became more at ease doing that. It also made me feel more energized to nurture the profession and help my colleagues.”
Vipond went above and beyond, spending time with her co-workers to get their perspective on how they interpreted the CCP requirements and, if a co-worker was struggling, offered suggestions on how they could document their meaningful learnings. The experience Vipond gained from being on the committee and Borth as a peer assessor, created opportunities for them to share and inspire others. Both Vipond and Borth encourage other pharmacy technicians to get involved with regulation, especially in continuing competence, as an opportunity to further their learning and leadership and nurture the pharmacy technician profession, one of the principles of ACP’s Code of Ethics.
“I would say absolutely do it,” said Borth. “I have encouraged so many people to apply. It’s the greatest experience. You will learn so much and then you’ll be able to bring it back to your peers, share that knowledge, and help them grow.”
Whether through involvement with the competence committee, being a peer assessor, or supporting and mentoring colleagues, Vipond and Borth have exhibited commitment to the profession. Even more remarkable is their demonstration of professionalism as leaders amongst their peers, collaborators with other committee members and colleagues, and individuals with a strong set of values and good judgement when making decisions that affect their fellow professionals. These are qualities of an engaged pharmacy professional.