Pharmacy Student Professionalism Issues

How Professionalism Issues Can Lead to Disciplinary Action and Other Consequences for Pharmacy Students

Professionalism is a key core principle in the relationship between pharmacists and patients—the same as it is for physicians. For this reason, schools of pharmacy across the United States have implemented professionalism principles into their curriculum and Codes of Conduct to implant these ideals into their students. As a pharmacy student, it is your responsibility to uphold the school's expectations of professionalism and academic integrity—even before you begin interacting with patients, but especially after.

If you fail to follow these expectations of professionalism, it can raise concerns among the faculty regarding how well you will function in a professional setting. If the school deems that you haven't conducted yourself according to their professional standards, it can lead to disciplinary actions, including probation, reprimands, remediation, negative notations in your academic record, and even dismissal from the school. At the very least, these actions could make your career path more difficult; at worst, they could completely derail your career prospects.

Unfortunately, pharmacy students are often at a disadvantage in disciplinary hearings because schools don't have the same burden of proof as you might have in a courtroom. An experienced attorney-advisor can help you navigate the disciplinary process, advise you on how to handle the situation, and help you avoid or minimize disciplinary action to maintain your reputation and career trajectory.

Principles of Professionalism for Pharmacy Students

Every college, university, and School of Pharmacy adopts certain pillars of professionalism by which their students are expected to abide. The specifics may differ slightly between schools, but they typically parallel the same professionalism principles medical students must follow.

The American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP) has published 10 Characteristics of Professionalism for pharmacists based on the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists established by the American Pharmacists Association. Most schools of pharmacy will adopt principles similar to these:

  1. Knowledge and skills of the profession
  2. Commitment to self-improvement of skills and knowledge
  3. Service orientation
  4. Pride in and service to the profession
  5. Covenantal relationship with the patient
  6. Creativity and innovation
  7. Conscience and trustworthiness
  8. Accountability for their work
  9. Ethically sound decision-making
  10. Leadership

How Professionalism Concerns May Lead to Disciplinary Actions for Pharmacy Students

Schools of Pharmacy will establish clear protocols for how they expect their students to conduct themselves. Usually, the school will provide an Honor Code or a Code of Student Conduct. If a faculty member, staff member, colleague, fellow student, or patient observes a student acting in a manner that they believe violates the principles of professionalism, they will report it to the dean, progress committee, honor board, or whatever body is in charge of enforcing discipline. The disciplinary process may involve any/all of the following:

  • Investigation into the allegations
  • Informal meeting with the student
  • Formal hearing (to hear both sides of the story and allow the student to explain their actions)
  • Recommending remediation, probation, or other sanctions to correct the behavior

Consequences of inappropriate acts that persistently violate the school's principles of professionalism may lead to more serious disciplinary action, including suspension or even dismissal from the institution. Having an attorney-advisor involved in the disciplinary process can go a long way toward minimizing the risks of serious repercussions for the student accused of unprofessionalism.

FAQ about School of Pharmacy Professionalism Issues

What is expected of me as a pharmacy student regarding professionalism?

The principles of professionalism in most schools of pharmacy closely resemble those required of medical students—in part because patient trust is as critical for pharmacists as it is for doctors.

Pharmacy students' professionalism principles are guiding principles that they are expected to maintain throughout their academic careers. A few of these principles include:

  • Integrity (ethical conduct and honesty)
  • Respect (ability to listen, interact and cooperate with others)
  • Responsibility (taking ownership in decisions, tasks, and outcomes)
  • Acting in the best interests of patients
  • Respecting the covenantal relationship between pharmacist and patient (e.g., privacy, truthfulness, trust)

What type of disciplinary action can occur if I am accused of unprofessionalism?

The disciplinary process usually begins informally with a staff member meeting with you to discuss your troubling behavior, then following up to correct the behavior. If there are multiple instances of alleged professionalism (or numerous complaints about it), the school is more likely to take disciplinary action. These may include remedial programs, academic probation, academic monitoring, etc. Continued infractions may result in a negative notation placed in your permanent academic file. For particularly egregious behavior or repeated incidents of unprofessionalism, the school may opt to dismiss you—leading to possible long-term repercussions for your future.

Because of what is at stake both in the short and long term, it is critical that you seek help from an experienced attorney-advisor if you're facing disciplinary actions due to professionalism concerns. In doing so, you are protecting yourself as well as your investment in your career. Following the proper guidance from an attorney-advisor makes it possible to resolve disciplinary actions and notations while preventing long-term repercussions.

Can professionalism issues in pharmacy school affect my ability to get a residency or to get hired?

Yes. If a teacher raises a concern about a student's professionalism, and it remains uncorrected, it could result in negative notations on your academic record as the school makes observations and takes corrective measures. This academic record may be taken into account by pharmacies or medical facilities where you seek to apply for residency programs or work.

Can I get dismissed from a school of pharmacy over professionalism issues?

Yes. Pharmacy students repeatedly accused of unprofessionalism can be dismissed from school, especially if they fail to follow a remedial plan and/or ignore feedback. Similarly, the school may also dismiss a pharmacy student for even a single infraction if the alleged behavior is especially egregious.

Can disciplinary actions taken by the school of pharmacy impact my ability to become a licensed pharmacist?

Yes. A state board of pharmacy may consider your academic record when you apply for a professional license. Research has shown that unprofessional behavior by students is a strong indicator of board disciplinary action later. If notations of unprofessional behavior create concerns among the licensing board members, they may choose to deny you a license.

Why do I need an attorney-advisor to help me fight professionalism concerns? What can an attorney do?

An attorney cannot represent you in an official capacity in school disciplinary proceedings because it isn't a legal proceeding. However, most schools do allow you to retain an attorney in an advisory role. An experienced attorney-advisor can assist you in navigating the disciplinary process, help procure evidence and witnesses in your defense, and guide you in the best way to respond to the allegations in a way that will minimize the damage to your career. In many cases, the attorney advisor's involvement can save your reputation and your career. You've invested a lot of time and money into your education and your career as a pharmacist. When you're facing disciplinary action over professionalism issues, there's simply too much at stake to try going it alone. An experienced attorney-advisor can help you protect your record and your good name at this critical time so you can pursue future residencies or positions as a licensed pharmacist with a clean record.

Don't let your fate rest in someone else's hands. Get someone in your corner who will fight for your best interests. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is recognized nationwide for his expertise in student discipline cases. To schedule an initial consultation, call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686.

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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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