Published On: Mon, Dec 8th, 2014

Professional character and integrity in pharmacy practice

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(By Dr Lolu Ojo)

Let’s be blunt. Customers are the best judges of professionalism, not academic qualifications or certifying boards. Not everyone who practises a profession will be called a professional by the customers. And, while we may not all agree on who qualifies as a “professional”, most people know when they’ve been served by one. They also know when the person serving them, no matter the level of training and certification, is being less than ‘professional’ in their performance.

So, here’s a question for the pharmacist reading this article: Are you a true professional or just someone who has undergone the rigorous training and obtained the certifications to practice in this field? This is an important question with implications for the future of the pharmaceutical profession and other professional fields in Nigeria. My hope is that, as a society, we can start exploring, defining and re-discovering all the important attributes of a professional and injecting these back into all jobs.

A professional is more than someone ‘paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks’. He or she is,additionally, an expert with specialised knowledge base; a person with high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities and; above all, an individual ‘who willingly adopts and consistently applies the knowledge, skills and values of a chosen profession’. The quality of being a professional, therefore, combines the basic knowledge in the chosen field with the attitudinal attributes of the person involved.

Character is the combination of qualities or features that distinguish an individual. It is the moral or ethical strength that defines the capacity, position or status or reputation of the person. It is the characteristic property that describes the apparent individual nature of something.

Integrity refers to the consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes. It is the inner sense of wholeness, the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of action. Honesty is ‘telling the truth to other people’ while INTEGRITY is ‘telling yourself the truth’.

With the definitions above, how do we discuss PROFESSIONAL CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY in Pharmacy? Are we true professionals who have willingly adopted and consistently applied the knowledge, skills and values of the pharmacy profession? What are we getting paid for: carrying out a specialised set of tasks with character and integrity OR simply for having a degree in Pharmacy?

The questions must also be directed to each of the technical groups or practice area in order for us to have a very clear view of the profession’s current situation:

  1. Academics:
  2. What do we teach and how is the knowledge measured?
  3. What tools are we using to teach and under what environment is the teaching taking place?
  4. Who are the teachers in terms of quality and quantity?
  5. What is the quality of the university products? What kind of feedback are we getting?Do we even care for the feedbacks?
  6. Is academic pharmacy only about teaching? Do we still do research?If yes, what research? To what purpose?
  7. Are we really contributing to the world body of knowledge on drugs and their application?
  8. Where is the Professional Character and Integrity in our practice?
  1. Hospital and Administration:
  • What do we do and how relevant are we to the hospital system?
  • What will the system miss if we are not there?
  • Which specialised set of tasks do we undertake?
  • Do we seek new way(s) to do the job better?
  • Can our job functions and duties pass the Professional Character and Integrity test?
  1. Community:
  • Are we community pharmacists or shop owners?
  • Even as shop owners, what manner of service do we provide?
  • When we work for non-pharmacists, what do we do?
  • What work do we really do? Are we princes or servants in our father’s palace?
  • Can our job functions and duties pass the Professional Character and Integrity test?
  1. Industry:
  • Industry, what industry? Do we exist in the world’s pharmaceutical map?
  • What is our contribution to the national GDP?
  • Who are the major players?
  • Who is a superintendent pharmacist and what does he do?
  • The market is so attractive but WHO are the beneficiaries?
  • Who are the regulators and what is the direction of regulation?
  • Can our job functions and duties pass the Professional Character and Integrity test?
  • To move forward and become true professionals with character and integrity, we must get excellent at the basics:
    1. Ask yourself the right questions and be honest about your answers.
    2. Resolve to be a professional, a pharmacistwith character and integrity in whatever area of practice you find yourself.
    3. Refuse to be assimilated by a stagnating, deteriorating and decaying system.
    4. Stay above your environment. Update your knowledge, experience and exposure base.
    5. STOP comparing yourself to others as we easily do. It is a defeatist approach.
    6. Reach out to the young pharmacists to renew their faith and refresh the profession.
    7. Collectively, we must kill ‘REGISTER AND GO’ through a deep understanding of the concept, fishing out the people involved, rehabilitating them where applicable and applying the right disciplinary measures.

We are certainly on the right track and we will get there: Building a pharmacy profession with character and integrity in Nigeria.

God bless Pharmacy in Nigeria!


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Professional character and integrity in pharmacy practice