A recent hearing tribunal issued its written decision on the merits and orders about the conduct of a pharmacy technician who was found to have failed to renew her annual practice permit, then practised for a short period of time without a valid permit, and then provided inaccurate statements to the College on several occasions. Although no evidence was presented to the tribunal to indicate the pharmacy technician’s conduct resulted in direct patient harm, the tribunal found that the pharmacy technician’s conduct was unprofessional and warranted sanctions. In failing to properly renew and then to provide inaccurate statements in an attempt to cover up or minimize her failure, the hearing tribunal found that the pharmacy technician breached the most fundamental elements of honesty, integrity, and professionalism.
The requirement for registrants of a profession to only practice when properly authorized to do so and to consistently act honestly and ethically are fundamental to the covenant of self-regulation.
In this matter, the tribunal imposed significant penalties, even though there had been no previous history of unprofessional conduct on the part of the registrant, there was no direct patient harm, and the conduct occurred over a short period of time.
The tribunal ordered
- the completion of an ethics courses within one year. The failure to do so shall result in a 3-month suspension;
- a payment of $8,000 towards the costs of the investigation;
- a fine of $2,500; and
- a condition that the pharmacy technician must disclose the tribunal’s written decision to any pharmacy employer for a period of 3 years.
Rationale for the tribunal’s decision is reflected in its following statements:
From the tribunal’s decision:
Regarding the pharmacy technician’s failure to properly renew her permit
Practising when she knew or ought to have known that she did not have a valid practice permit and when she had not submitted an application to renew her professional liability insurance also harms the integrity of the pharmacy technician profession. It is not practical for members of the public to verify that individuals with whom they interact in a pharmacy is a regulated health professional and so the public are entitled to expect that individuals holding themselves out as regulated professionals and members of the College are indeed regulated and that they have met all of the requirements to maintain their regulated status.
Regarding the pharmacy technician’s provision of inaccurate statements to the College
[The pharmacy technician’s] conduct during the investigation harms the integrity of the pharmacy technician profession, contrary to section 1(1)(pp)(xii) of the Health Professions Act. Regulated professionals are expected to be forthcoming with accurate information when communicating with their professional regulator, especially during an investigation process. Self-regulation depends upon the accountability of regulated professionals to their regulators. The public should also be able to expect that regulated pharmacy technicians will be forthcoming and candid with the College so that the College can carry out its mandate in the public interest. [The pharmacy technician] was not forthcoming with accurate information and this was unprofessional.
Pharmacy technicians and pharmacists – review your ethical duties to our profession and yourself
- Review, understand, and comply with all aspects of the practice permit renewal process. Excellent information about the process can be found in recent editions of ACP’s The Link, on the ACP website, and are customarily sent to registrants during the renewal period.
- Be proactive in renewing your permit and complete all requirements in a timely manner. Don’t wait until the last minute to start the renewal process.
- If you think you need help understanding or complying with the renewal requirements, ask for and accept assistance. Keep your licensee, pharmacy employer, and College informed of your permit status.
- Discuss the practice permit renewal process with your peers.
- Review and discuss with peers your fundamental professional obligations. Principles 1, 10, and 11 of the Code of Ethics will provide you with valuable guidance in this respect.
- Do not allow your personal circumstances to negatively affect your professional obligations.
- Review and reflect upon your conduct as it relates to the Code of Ethics and your profession.
- Don’t assume different types of registrants regulated by the ACP will have their conduct considered differently.