Pharmacists: Protect yourself by spreading responsibility

The responsibilities of an Oregon pharmacist are extensive

A pharmacist licensed to practice pharmacy by the Oregon Board of Pharmacy has the duty to use that degree of care, skill, diligence and professional judgment that is exercised by an ordinarily careful pharmacist in the same or similar circumstances. See OAR 855-019-0200. The general responsibilities of a pharmacist are extensive, and there are many opportunities to make a mistake. See, e.g., OAR 855-019-0200(1)-(7) (listing some responsibilities). Moreover, a retail or institutional pharmacy may only only be operated when a pharmacist is physically present in the pharmacy to supervise the pharmacy. See OAR 855-041-1015(1). It should come as no surprise then, that most mistakes or problems will be assigned to the pharmacist on duty when the mistake is made or the problem arises in some damaging way.

Be wary, share the problem, and implement corrections

Although a practicing pharmacist will always be responsible for meeting professional standards, be wary of accepting responsibility for institutional problems, or the problems of others. If workload is too high to avoid medication or dispensing errors, or if technicians or cashiers are exceeding the lawful scope of their respective roles, or whatever the problem may be, expose and share the problem. Be proactive. Find and implement solutions. Otherwise, you may be assuming sole responsibility for problems and mistakes that will no doubt occur under your supervision.

Do not become isolated; report upstream; seek help

If problems are not easily corrected, do not sit of the problem. Do not become isolated with the problem. Instead, report the problem upstream. A friendly email spotting a potential problem and asking for help is a good place to start. Proposing a solution is even better. The worst thing you can do, however, is to become isolated and do nothing, all the while being responsible for an unsafe practice that will eventually result in a problem that is reported to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy. When that happens, blaming the pace of workplace, or the staff, or the corporate management, will not get you very far if you failed to address the problem you spotted on your watch, while you were supervising the pharmacy.

Report the problem to others licensed by Oregon Board of Pharmacy

Each pharmacy must have one pharmacist-in-charge employed on a regular basis at each location who shall be responsible for the daily operation of the pharmacy. See OAR 855-041-1010(1). Share the problem with your pharmacist-in-charge. If you are the pharmacist-in-charge, report up to management and ownership. Remember, the pharmacy is also licensed by the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the pharmacy must ensure that it is in compliance with all state and federal laws and rules governing the practice of pharmacy and that all controlled substance records and inventories are maintained in conformance with the keeping and inventory requirements of federal law and board rules. See OAR 855-041-1010(2). If you instead choose to “sit” on a problem until it results in a complaint to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy – because your believe you lack the authority to correct the problem, or your believe that management “won’t do anything” – then the problem will be your problem alone, when the Oregon Board of Pharmacy becomes involved. Don’t let this happen to you.

When all else fails

If you genuinely believe you have no one to report to that will help you, then the problem is truly yours to resolve. At this point, you will be best served to consult a pharmacy inspector, or an experienced attorney, for guidance. An experienced licensure attorney can contact the Board of Pharmacy looking for solutions, without disclosing your name. In the rare event that you are left with no other alternative than to report your pharmacy to the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, an experienced licensure attorney can make the report for you, in the most constructive fashion. The alternative is to sit on a ticking time bomb. Don’t do it.