Professionalism (Part 1)

This 3-part video series covers professionalism standards for pharmacy students.

Part 1: Confidentiality
Part 2: Accountability, Honesty and Integrity, Appropriate Attire and Appearance, and Punctuality
Part 3: Practice Scenario

Hello, my name is Dr. Tablet, but you can just call me Tab. In this 3-part video series, I’ll be giving you a crash course on professionalism.

When I was a student, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about being professional on practicum. Don’t use my phone, arrive on time, follow the dress code, and the list goes on and on. It all seemed like common sense. Then one day I did something that made my practice educator quite disappointed. And in that moment, I realized that anyone can experience a lapse in their judgement especially if the situation is not so black and white. This is my story:

It was a particularly busy day at the pharmacy, and I decided to post this on social media. “I can’t wait for this day to be over! The line at the pharmacy was so long and this old man with Parkinson’s took forever to get his prescription out of his bag. Maybe if he actually took his meds, the tremors wouldn’t be so bad.”
#RxProblems #ChronicallyTired

I didn’t name the patient or the pharmacy. The post was just going to my followers – most of them friends, family, or classmates – and the post was obviously just a joke about my bad day at work. I thought it was pretty harmless at first. That’s why I was surprised when the pharmacist pulled me aside the next day.
Pharmacist: “My colleague saw your post yesterday and showed it to me. Do you think what you shared was appropriate?”

Dr. Tablet (student): “What do you mean?”

Pharmacist: “I can identify the patient from your post, and you can tell that it’s my pharmacy based on the background. If the patient sees this, it could be really upsetting for him and can compromise his trust in the pharmacy team. How do you think this patient would feel if they saw this post about themselves? You did not have permission to share this photo of the pharmacy or patient on social media and a complaint could be filed with the College of Pharmacists of BC. What you thought was a simple joke online has the potential to significantly impact my patients and pharmacy. I’m very disappointed.”

I felt awful but I’m glad that the pharmacist pointed it out. I can’t take back what I did, but I learned from my mistake and maybe you can too. You should never share or post photos of your patients or practice site without consent. It’s important to note that the identity of your patient can be revealed even if you don’t include any names, especially in small towns. Be mindful of who may be listening or watching when you talk about patients and please think twice about sharing things on social media.

Exhibiting professional attitudes and behaviors at all times is a program expectation. The tenets of professionalism for pharmacy students are described in the faculty’s code of conduct. In this video, we will be focusing on five of these standards: confidentiality, accountability, honesty and integrity, appropriate attire and appearance, and punctuality.

My social media story illustrates a breach in confidentiality. Patients put their trust in you. They are willing to share sensitive information with you such as their sexual health, recreational drug use, and mental health concerns. This information may be essential to proving optimal pharmaceutical care. It is your responsibility to protect this information, otherwise the pharmacist-patient relationship could be compromised and thus their care may be negatively impacted.

Now, I’m going to give you another scenario and see how well you do.

Jane learns that her brother is in the hospital – the same one at which she is currently on practicum. She’s worried about him and wants to know how he’s doing. Is it acceptable for Jane to access her brother’s medical records? The answer is no.
If you are not in the patient’s circle of care, you are not permitted to access their information even if they’re your family member or friend. Although Jane is concerned about her brother, it is not appropriate for her to look at his information.

Some of you may be wondering if you’re allowed to access your own patient file. I mean, don’t you have a right to your own information?
You are not allowed to view your own medical records. Healthcare professionals, like any other people, must adhere to the proper channels for requesting their own records.

Let’s try another scenario.

Caleb was working on a care plan at the pharmacy but did not finish before closing time. Is it acceptable for him to take a picture of the patient’s information so that he can work on it at home? He will delete it afterwards.
Patient information should never be removed from the practice site. If you must work on a care plan at home, ask for your practice educator’s permission and make sure to carefully remove all patient identifiers. Remember, you become responsible for ensuring that the information is safe with you at all times. Do not take photos because the risk for a data breach is too high as sometimes photos are saved automatically on cloud storage and digital devices can be hacked. If you are ever unsure, it is best to seek support and have a discussion with your practice educator.

Thanks for watching Part 1 of the professionalism video series. Please watch Part 2 where we’ll continue our discussion on professionalism. I’m Dr. Tablet and I hope you have a fanTABulous practicum!

Acknowledgements:  We would like to thank Alyssa Low (Undergraduate Student) for helping to create this video and Garrett Tang (Undergraduate Student) for designing original images (e.g. Dr. Tablet).