Professional Incompetence: Making Errors on the Job

When someone is guilty of professional incompetence, they have demonstrated poor judgment, knowledge, or skills on the job, and have possibly put someone’s welfare at risk. This can happen in any profession. I do not have personal experience witnessing professional incompetence in the workplace, but as a future Registered Pharmacy Technician I would like to consider what this could look like in the pharmacy industry, by drawing from an experience in my family.

Over 40 years ago, when my older sister was an infant, my mother picked up a prescription for her for oral antibiotics. However, when my mother got home and was about to administer the medication, she knew the prescription wasn’t correct as they had given her large pills that an infant would not be able to swallow, instead of the intended liquid medicine. After a trip back to the pharmacy, my mother realized that she had received the wrong prescription, as she had received someone else’s heart medication. Thank goodness the error was caught before any harm was done to my sister.

This is an example of professional incompetence on the part of the pharmacy, especially the pharmacist who would’ve been responsible for checking all aspects of the prescription, many years before Registered Pharmacy Technicians. However, I would like to consider what I would do if this happened today, and I was the Registered Pharmacy Technician responsible for checking the medication, but the wrong medication still made its way to the patient who later returned to make me aware of the mistake. I know it’s ethical behaviour to admit the mistake and take the necessary steps to rectify the situation, even if that meant I could get into trouble and be fired. I would have made a mistake that could’ve harmed a patient, and that is not something to hide, but rather is something to learn from, as well as reap the professional consequences. It would be my job as a Registered Pharmacy Technician to work to the best of my ability, and giving the wrong medication, though not intentionally, means I wouldn’t have been using my skills and knowledge wisely. I would be guilty of professional incompetence, and that should not go unnoticed, but be dealt with accordingly.

Humans will make errors; risking professional consequences for those errors is a small price to pay if those errors could have dire consequences to someone else’s health, potentially putting their life at risk.


Professional Misconduct – A Dilemma Worth Considering (by: Melissa Kellar)

As a future Registered Pharmacy Technician, there is a Code of Ethics we must adhere by, so that our job is carried out in a professional manner, with honesty and integrity, in a way that puts the patient first. However, from time to time we may face ethical dilemmas, such as witnessing professional misconduct, and we will have to decide how to handle it.

I have never personally witnessed professional misconduct at a job, as my place of employment has been in my home, as a mother to my three kids. However, when we were asked to reflect on a situation  when someone did not behave professionally, I remembered a situation my mother recently told me about from her line of work, as a Personal Support Worker (PSW).

A patient was to no longer receive diuretic pills (Hydrochlorothiazide) so the pills were to be removed from her blister pack of medications, and discarded in a special container. However, my mother noticed on her shift that these pills were in a different container, not the discard container, and set off to the side. When she inquired about the odd misplacement of the diuretic pills to one of her PSW colleagues, the colleague was not sure either why they were not properly discarded, so she asked the Registered Nurse (RN) on duty. The RN had no problem announcing that she was taking the pills home to use for herself as she was on them anyway, to save her from buying her own prescription and thus saving her money. The PSW colleague of my mother then preceded to tell the management about the stolen pills, and the RN was fired.

My mother did what I would do, inquire why there was the odd misplacement of the pills. However, would I do what the colleague did and run and tattle on the RN, and risk having her fired, especially over water pills? It was not a narcotic after all. However, it comes back to ethics. The pill may only be a diuretic, however is it still a prescription drug, and someone else’s prescription (even though it was not needed for them anymore), and it still equates to stealing. The bottom line, if I have put in the hard work to become a Registered Pharmacy Technician, I would want to be honest, and though I do not want to be a tattle, I would also not want to lose my license because I looked the other way. The RN should have known better from her own years of training. The ethical thing to do is to never steal prescription drugs; it is also ethical to not allow it to happen.