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    Mentors, peer review, and the oath of a pharmacist

    At a time when civility is sorely lacking in every arena of daily life, contributor Wole Williams reminds us of the importance of core values that enrich us all.

    Professonal rapport: Bonded by a common vocation

    Peer reviews are formal and/or informal gatherings of professionals who are mutually bonded by a common vocation. Taken in print or conferences, such practice reviews are designed to enhance and sharpen the skills of the participants involved.

    The foundation for peer reviews and professional rapport is laid at the induction ceremony in many healthcare professions. Inductees are guided through the oath-taking ceremony and are particularly reminded of their responsibilities to one another, to their profession, and to the citizens of their country.

    A mentor usually is a senior colleague who guides, teaches, and shares from a rich store of practical experience. A protege who is keen on learning more often than not would respect his/her mentor and regularly furnish him/her with necessary feedback in the course of training.

    Professions survive and prosper when mentors and their juniors embrace one another respectfully and cooperatively for the progressive promotion of their vocation. In this way, the seniors would not carry their valuable professional experience to their graves, and the juniors would not commit irreparable blunders as they enter the stage of practice. The relationship of mentors to their junior colleagues may be likened to that of a father to his son during a first driving lesson. The lad is eager to press hard on the gas pedal, while his dad insists on a slow and steady approach for the critical reason of safety.

    Respect your colleagues, train the next generation, honor your seniors

    In pharmacy, as in other healthcare professions, patient safety is paramount. For this reason, induction ceremonies into the profession are solemn occasions. Senior colleagues are invited to share words of wisdom with the new graduates, and a legal representative of the state administers the oath publicly. Emphasis is placed on moral and ethical conduct, and the new grads are reminded of their professional duties to the members of the public. At many of such events, new entrants into pharmacy practice are advised to "respect their colleagues" and to offer their best services in the interest of the patients.

    Practice reviews at local and or international meetings are valuable opportunities for mentoring. They actualize an essential principle in the U.S. oath of pharmacists: "I will utilize my knowledge, skills, experience, and values to fulfill my obligation to educate and train the next generation of pharmacists." The practical experiences of a mentor, shared in a courteous, friendly and enthusiastic way, will equip a protege for the arduous terrain of public service. Yes, good education precedes experience. However, education alone is no substitute for experience in a sphere of practice where human life is at stake.

    For the advancement of the profession of pharmacy, senior colleagues should be honored and respected for their opinions, and the juniors ought to have an unfettered liberty to consult with them. Issues bordering on patient care should not concern competition and personal gain; your colleague ought to be given the same honor and respect as one desires for oneself. It is not ethical to downgrade or condemn an honest attempt made by a colleague in the course of practice.

    Standards of public behavior

    Especially in the presence of nonprofessionals and or other members of the healthcare team, differences of opinion concerning what pattern of patient care to adopt in a particular setting are not sufficient excuse to malign or defame a colleague.

    Ethical behavior, high moral standards, and sanctity of human life are values that every decent practitioner ought to uphold privately and publicly. Issues? Oh, yes! Matters bordering on ethics may never be entirely spelt in legal black and white, that is, in the state law; men and women of honor, as all pharmacists are, however, must refrain from malice or vendetta in practice.

    As an intern here in the United State, way back in the year 2003, I personally witnessed a pharmacist disparaging the image of his "partner" before a customer. I sensed then, even as I have since witnessed it on many other occasions, that, he wanted to pose as professionally "better" than his colleague.

    There are no first-class or second-class pharmacists. Our senior colleagues in academia wisely and successfully moved for a declassification of the degree long ago.

    Views or opinions freely expressed at peer review meetings are not topics for gossip, nor are they subjects for ridicule. For example, a colleague who recently relocated from Alaska to Texas is no less a practitioner than those in the new environment. He or she will probably need a mentor for a brief period of acclimatization in the new location.

    Similarly, a nuclear pharmacist of 15 years who is now entering community practice will require some mentoring to effectively reestablish a practice as a retail pharmacist, along with guidance from a colleague in the same sector on how to understand the complexities and present challenges in the business of community practice: PBMs, Medicare, and so on.

    The benefit of all

    In conclusion, it is important to reiterate, that peer reviews in pharmacy practice were conceived for the benefit of all practicing pharmacists irrespective of their backgrounds. And such meetings are to be conducted in a decent, honest, polite and friendly atmosphere. Your colleagues and co-workers are to be given the same opportunities as yourself in the expression of their opinions. Your professional views and comments at such meetings are not subjects to be bandied about nor are the views "expressed" topics for the yellow pages. Professional comportment and public conduct may not have been an available elective in pharmacy school; however, every decent practitioner need not be reminded over and over again that "your behavior in the public place shall impact the image or otherwise of the profession that you represent."

    Oluwole Williams is a relief pharmacist who lives and works near Philadelphia, Pa.

    Oluwole Williams, BPharm, PharmD
    Oluwole Williams practices pharmacy in the Philadelpha, Penn. area. Contact him at [email protected]