Pharmacy Student Issues

Pharmacy students work diligently for many years to become licensed pharmacists. Academic course work, rigorous clinical or professional training, and difficult licensing exams are huge obstacles each pharmacy student must overcome before they can become a licensed, practicing pharmacist

During the eight years that students study to become pharmacists, they should be able to focus all their attention on their academic and clinical course work. An accusation of misconduct can derail progress toward becoming a pharmacist, forcing a student to spend their valuable time on stressful disciplinary procedures. Furthermore, a guilty determination of academic, sexual, professional, or exam misconduct can prevent a promising pharmacy student from ever realizing their goal.

If you're a pharmacy student who is accused of misconduct by your pharmacy program or your university, you should contact an experienced student defense attorney as soon as possible.

Student Disciplinary Issues for Pharmacy Students

Pharmacy students may encounter several issues throughout their studies, including Title IX and sexual harassment claims, academic honesty issues, professionalism concerns, and other forms of misconduct. The main disciplinary issues pharmacy students face include:

Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Charges for Pharmacy Students

Every college or university has a code of conduct that students must follow. Pharmacy schools or colleges of pharmacies within universities must adhere to the code of conduct as well, even if they're allowed to supplement with their own student conduct code. Student conduct codes at the university level expect students to follow local, state, and federal laws, as well as the college's rules and standards.

Most student codes of conduct pertain to all areas of university life, including academics, on-campus residences, extracurriculars, off-campus professional programs, sporting events, and any other university-affiliated environment. As a pharmacy student, it's your responsibility to know the student code of conduct, and claiming that you violated a rule because you weren't aware isn't a solid defense according to most universities.

Violating the student code of conduct is not committing a crime—you won't be arrested, and you won't go to prison for a code of conduct violation. The repercussions could be severe, however, resulting in poor academic standing or even expulsion from your university. Your years of study and money spent on tuition would be for nothing.

What are some common code of conduct violations that affect pharmacy students?

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct
  • Alcohol/drug use
  • Stalking
  • Threatening behavior and domestic violence
  • Social media violations
  • Computer crimes or cyber crimes
  • Theft
  • Drugs or alcohol on campus
  • Software piracy
  • Destruction of property

Disciplinary hearings

Different schools have different procedures, but after an accusation that you've violated the code of conduct at your pharmacy school or university, you will likely face formal disciplinary action, including the possibility of a hearing. A Dean of Students or Dean of the College of Pharmacy may dismiss the accusation against you before it goes forward, however.

At a disciplinary hearing, pharmacy students will have to present their side of events and answer questions from a review board. Students can call witnesses and may be able to submit evidence before the hearing as well. Some colleges don't allow students to have an attorney present with them at the hearing, but most disciplinary proceedings at the graduate school level permit external counsel at hearings.

Whether your case gets as far as a hearing or not, you should still retain the services of a student defense attorney when facing a disciplinary charge at your pharmacy school. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to conduct yourself in meetings with school administrators.

Academic Misconduct

Like all academic institutions, pharmacy schools prohibit all forms of academic misconduct by students while they're engaged in studies for their PharmD. Many pharmacy schools have their own policies concerning academic honesty that supplement university-wide policies.

Academic misconduct is a serious offense in pharmacy school and faculty and administrators won't hesitate to hand down penalties to students found guilty of academic dishonesty. These penalties can be severe, including suspension, expulsion, or revocation of degree. For many institutions, there is no statute of limitations on academic misconduct. If you graduated 10 years ago and administrators of your PharmD program find out in the present day, they may still put you through academic misconduct disciplinary procedures, which could result in degree revocation and loss of license.

What are some common examples of academic misconduct that pharmacy schools prohibit?

  • Using unauthorized notes during an examination
  • Taking an exam for another person or having someone else take an exam for you
  • Cutting and pasting words from published sources without proper citation
  • Paraphrasing another author's work without crediting them
  • Making up or inappropriately manipulating data for a research project
  • Making up or inappropriately manipulating data in a patient medical record
  • Adding items to a bibliography or reference list that were not used in the preparation of the document
  • Submitting someone else's work as your own
  • Unauthorized distribution of copies of current or past exams, quizzes, or assignments
  • Aiding and abetting dishonesty
  • Inappropriate access to exams
  • Violating instructions when completing assignments
  • Forgery

Academic misconduct is pervasive at all educational levels, so many instructors may be quick to accuse students of dishonesty in the classroom before they have all the facts. Cheating or plagiarism may happen when a student falls behind and is afraid they won't be able to catch up in their studies. Some pharmacy students are dealing with personal or family issues, and they don't feel they have the time or resources they need to complete their work independently. Pharmacy school can also be competitive, so a jealous student may falsely accuse another of academic dishonesty to derail their success. The context surrounding an academic misconduct charge is always complicated, but unfortunately, schools may ignore extenuating circumstances.

Common penalties for academic misconduct in pharmacy school

The sanctions pharmacy schools give to students found guilty of academic misconduct vary by school. At the University of Michigan Ann Arbor College of Pharmacy, which hosts one of the top pharmacy schools in the country, sanctions for academic misconduct and professionalism violations include

  • Completion of an educational project
  • Service to the community or school
  • Warning and warning letter in student's school file until graduation
  • Lowering a student's grade
  • Additional course work
  • Formal reprimand with a copy in the student's academic file
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Transcript notation that a failing grade was due to an academic honor code violation
  • Withholding a degree
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Rescinding a degree
  • Removal from an educational or clinical site

Although there are several sanctions listed here and they vary greatly in severity, it's important to note that many schools start with suspension as their basis in misconduct procedures. Suspension, or temporary leave of absence from the school, is one of the most common sanctions for academic or other misconduct at educational institutions.

Sometimes, however, schools may give accused students a more lenient sanction if they admit guilt. Most pharmacy schools also allow students to have an attorney or advisor assist them in the disciplinary process. To understand your options after you've been accused of academic misconduct at your pharmacy school, you should contact an experienced student discipline defense attorney.

Title IX and Related Concerns

Most universities that have pharmacy schools or colleges of pharmacy must abide by federal Title IX regulations. Title IX laws prohibit sex discrimination for federally funded educational institutions, in all areas of operations, including admissions, athletics, and employment. Typically, professional codes of behavior and ethical standards for pharmacy students prohibit sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and other concerns that overlap with Title IX. Even so, pharmacy students are still subject to their university's Title IX rules.

Title IX covers behavior such as:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Gender discrimination
  • Stalking
  • Revenge porn
  • Dating violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Bullying and gender-based bullying
  • Sexual assault, battery, or coercion
  • Non-consensual sex
  • Rape

All college campuses that follow Title IX regulations must have a Title IX Coordinator who handles claims regarding any of the above issues. Many universities also have a sexual misconduct policy that supplements Title IX laws, covering offenses that Title IX doesn't touch on.

Common penalties for sexual misconduct in pharmacy school

Pharmacy students accused of sexual misconduct could face the following sanctions:

  • Verbal or written warning
  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Removal from a university job position
  • Required counseling
  • Restitution
  • Revocation or withholding of degree

If you are accused of sexual misconduct as a pharmacy student, both your pharmacy school and the university will take the matter seriously. In the last several years, universities have received criticism for their responses to sexual misconduct allegations, so administrators face a great deal of public pressure when handling these kinds of cases. This pressure can cause pharmacy school or university staff members to take action that is not in the best interests of all students involved, especially not the accused student.

Pharmacy students facing Title IX or related allegations should strongly consider contacting a student defense attorney who specializes in campus misconduct and Title IX defense. If your pharmacy school finds you guilty of committing a sexual misconduct violation, it could be disastrous for your career as a pharmacist.

Professionalism Issues

Practicing pharmacists are supposed to maintain high standards of ethical and professional conduct. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and its corresponding state and local professional associations are responsible for defining these conduct standards. While studying to obtain their PharmD or other professional degrees in pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacy students must adhere to these professional conduct standards as well.

Common professionalism requirements for pharmacy students

Some schools, like the University of Michigan Ann Arbor School of Pharmacy, expect students to know and comply with APhA professionalism standards. Other pharmacy schools, such as the University of California San Francisco (USCF) School of Pharmacy, set out their own code of professionalism modeled after APhA guidelines. USCF's professionalism policy focuses on six behavior areas:

  1. Patient-centered care: Pharmacy students should promote patients' wellbeing and respond to their needs and wishes in a timely, safe, and effective manner.
  2. Respect: Pharmacy students should treat everyone with respect, without prejudice or discrimination, and show respect for privacy and the learning environment.
  3. Integrity: Pharmacy students should be honest and trustworthy in their academic and professional responsibilities and make sound decisions based on sound evidence that is consistent with the values of the profession.
  4. Service: Pharmacy students should promote the safe and cost-effective use of medications, serve as patient advocates, and collaborate with other healthcare providers to improve the quality of care.
  5. Responsibility: Pharmacy students should conduct themselves professionally through their actions, attitudes, and appearance, and hold themselves accountable for their decisions, recommendations, and actions.
  6. Responsiveness and adaptability: Pharmacy students should actively participate in educational opportunities to expand their professional competence, and act to improve health care and health care education.

Many pharmacy schools have similar professional standards, along with disciplinary procedures in place for students who violate these rules.

What are some examples of professional misconduct, according to the above guidelines?

  • Falsification of records or official documents
  • Providing professional care in an unsafe or harmful manner
  • Disrespecting the privacy of a patient or client
  • Falsifying patient records or fabricating professional care or patient experiences
  • Failing to report omission of or error in treatment or medications
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Committing a crime
  • Violating any computer use or technology policies in place at the pharmacy school or university
  • Any violation of the APhA Code of Ethics
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Sexual and other unlawful harassment
  • Romantic or intimate relationships between pharmacy students and faculty or staff members

Penalties for professional misconduct

Pharmacy students who don't follow their school's professionalism standards can expect to be brought up on disciplinary charges and possibly face sanctions. Professional behavior applies to both classroom and clinical settings. Some schools may allow professors or supervisors to address concerns about unprofessional behavior with students directly, while others may require them to report suspected violations of professional and ethical conduct codes to the pharmacy school administration. Often, concerns about professional conduct may come up when a pharmacy student receives an evaluation in a clinical setting.

When the administration of the pharmacy school is aware of professionalism issues regarding a particular student, they will usually schedule a meeting with the student to discuss the conduct. All parties will decide on how to proceed, and the pharmacy student may have a professional misconduct note on their academic record. Actions by the administration to address pharmacy student professional misconduct may include further counseling or remediation.

Pharmacy Student Academic Progression and Dismissals

PharmD programs place high demands on their students, and for good reason. The public trusts licensed pharmacists to dispense appropriate medications that are often lifesaving. As medical professionals, pharmacists have a duty to promote patient care. To ensure pharmacists meet these standards, accredited PharmD programs must be rigorous and thorough.

Pharmacy schools are concerned with the academic progression of their students and want to ensure that students only progress when they've mastered the course material. One way that pharmacy programs help students advance at the right pace is through remediation. Remediation involves modifying a course of study so a student is able to demonstrate mastery and move forward. It could include:

  • Retaking a course
  • Retaking an assessment
  • Retaking a semester
  • Retaking an entire year

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Accreditation and Standards Guidelines 2016 state that PharmD programs should have remediation policies, but don't specify the nature of these policies. Schools can only offer a PharmD program if they're accredited with ACPE, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore, accredited pharmacy schools must have some sort of remediation policy in place.

At the University of Minnesota, the PharmD program's remediation policy allows students to revisit content from one course, if the student has failed the course. The policy states explicitly that remediation is not equivalent to retaking the course, but a way for students to show competency of the course material through an additional assessment.

For pharmacy students, the most common remediation method is by making up work for a failed class. While this method might not take up as much time as retaking an entire semester or an entire year, it's still time and energy that pharmacy students have to spend in addition to what they planned for.

In some cases, pharmacy students face academic challenges because schools are unaware of their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It's possible a school isn't providing the necessary accommodations for a pharmacy student with a disability, which is hindering their academic progress. If you're facing remediation or other alterations to your academic progression as a pharmacy student and believe you aren't receiving reasonable accommodations for your disability, you should consult with a student defense attorney for advice.

Pharmacy student dismissals

Per many pharmacy schools' academic progression policies, students may be dismissed from their academic program for unsatisfactory academic performance. Most schools have a policy regarding academic standing, which sets the minimum grade point average (GPA) students must maintain to remain in good standing. Students who fail to achieve their PharmD program's minimum GPA could be placed on academic probation. Following probation is usually dismissal, whereby a student must leave the PharmD program and the dismissal appears on their transcript.

Appealing Academic or Other Sanctions in Pharmacy School

Pharmacy students may face a wide range of academic issues during their studies that could impact their futures as pharmacists. Often, students can appeal these academic issues on the basis of unfairness, unequal treatment, or a mishandling of disciplinary procedures by the school.

Most appeals center around the following issues:

  • Grade appeals
  • Exam appeals
  • Probation appeals
  • Academic suspension appeals
  • Academic dismissal appeals

It's in both the student's and the pharmacy school's best interests to get to the bottom of academic issues, to determine what is causing the problem. Unfortunately, some schools and administrators move directly to academic suspension, probation, or dismissal without letting the student present their side of the story. The ACPE Guidelines state that all accredited PharmD programs should have mechanisms for appeal, including grade appeals and student progression.

ACPE standards for appeals are in place to prevent a professor or school from applying academic standards unfairly or inconsistently. When students face arbitrarily or deliberately inaccurate grades, they should have a method to appeal.

Pharmacy Student Exams and Licensing

Graduates from PharmD programs must be licensed before they can begin practicing. Each state has its own licensing board that oversees this process, and that maintains standards for currently licensed pharmacists. Before they can receive their license, pharmacy graduates must pass the licensing exam, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). This exam helps each state board of pharmacy assess an individual's competency to practice pharmacy.

State licensing boards take the NAPLEX very seriously, and any allegation of misconduct on this exam, such as cheating or falsification, will prevent a pharmacy graduate from receiving their license. When dealing with NAPLEX misconduct allegations, students should consult with a student defense attorney advisor to discuss their options.

Defense for Pharmacy Student Discipline Nationwide

Allegations of misconduct as a pharmacy student can have a long-term impact on a potential pharmacist's career. If you are a pharmacy student facing a charge of academic misconduct, Title IX violation, sexual misconduct, professional misconduct, or exam misconduct, you should contact an experienced student's rights attorney.

Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm has helped hundreds of pharmacy students across the country defend themselves in misconduct matters and also address academic issues with their educational institutions. Contact the Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to protect your future as a pharmacist.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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