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A warning before starting a new role

An anonymous PDA member hopes their experience can function as a warning to other pharmacists who move from one area of practice to another. Their career nearly ended after moving into a new role working for an online pharmacy as a prescribing pharmacist.

Wed 7th December 2022 The PDA

This article is about the worst period of my career, and it was all my fault.

In 2019 I began working for an online company. I had been working for GP surgeries when this opportunity came to me. The fact that I could work from home was very appealing at the time and I went for my interview, and everything seemed good when I started working in the new role. This was something I did not question, and this was my biggest mistake.

Why was this the biggest mistake? Was it because all online healthcare services are bad? The answer is no, online healthcare services are here to stay, and we need to adapt to ensure we can provide these services safely.

The mistake was all my fault, Why? Because my approach to the role from the start was wrong, I did not look at how the online pharmacy works, I did not ensure the role was within my scope of practice, I did not look at the potential safety errors. My mistakes continued as when I started to work, I naively prescribed medication without communication with the GPs which is a major red flag for any practice.

My situation led to a GPhC investigation which ended up with me being suspended. So, please readers do not take this article lightly, this can have a major effect on your career, your life and I would even argue more importantly could cause harm to the public.

We cannot forget why we have become pharmacists in the first place, which is to help the public, to ensure that they have the best possible care from our profession we are duty bound to protect the public. Even though my intentions were never and have never been, to hurt the public, my actions clearly could have done. I did not get paid for each prescription I did, as I felt this was unethical and would only promote overprescribing. I did however, over prescribe as I did not take the necessary steps to ensure the appropriate systems were in place to safety net and protect the public.

As a result, my approach to starting a new job has changed significantly and I feel you should take similar measures. My system before taking on a new role now involves evaluating the following:

  • What is the role? Am I qualified for the role? Have I had the appropriate training and experience for this role? What systems are in place?
  • I evaluate how the company is running and ask myself if I can I see any potential risks that could cause harm to the public? How good is the safety netting the role has in place?

Yes, you as the pharmacist are the ultimate safety net, however, you need to look at the place of work, look at their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Determine who you can contact if you have concerns regarding not only patients, but yourself and staff.

You must ensure you are working in a safe, comfortable environment where there are minimum distractions for you to safely practice in the job you are going to do.

Ensure your training is up to date, before starting a different role, even if you have experience in the area and have the appropriate training in place, I urge you to refresh your knowledge. You will be surprised how much a refresher will help, not only your knowledge, but also your confidence.

Discuss the role that you are about to take with your peers especially if it is in a new field for you such as moving from community pharmacy into general practice. Having the perspective on the role you are about to undertake from other pharmacists may point out certain risks or factors that did not occur to you. It is always good to have a second opinion from a professional colleague.

One major piece of advice which I wish I had heard before working for the online pharmacy is to discuss your situation with the PDA and check out its website. This can ensure you have the appropriate indemnity insurance, and the PDA has online information to help you identify what is expected of prescribers and how to evidence your competency to prescribe.

This article may sound scary, but please do not be scared to embark on the new adventures that our wonderful profession has to offer. Just do it safely, protect yourself and more importantly protect the public.

In conclusion, do not approach your work or a new role in the manner that I did, it was unprofessional, dangerous and could have led to patient harm.

Thank you for reading this article. Please stay safe, practise safely, and protect the public.

By a PDA anonymous member

This article is provided by a pharmacist who has learned from mistakes that hopefully you will not repeat.

As this member points out, there are multiple career opportunities for pharmacists to work in different areas, however, this case is sadly not an isolated example of a pharmacist who has paid a heavy penalty for their naivety when changing roles.

This pharmacist was represented by the PDA throughout the Fitness to Practice process and was successfully able to resume their career, but not before a lot of distress, anguish, and financial loss due to being unprepared for the challenges of prescribing.

The PDA is a membership organisation and while the organisation acts in the collective interests of frontline pharmacists in much of the policy and campaigning activity it undertakes, it cannot provide individual casework support to non-members. Members should also contact the PDA at the earliest opportunity when aware of a problem, as taking early advice is more likely to result in better outcomes.

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