May 28, 2014

OCP Asks Pharmacists to Step Up

by Beverley Herczegh, Director

At Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) district meetings this May, the message to pharmacists was clear: Focus on the patient, not the Rx.

This came directly from OCP registrar Marshal Moleschi and professor Austin Zubin, U of T Pharmacy school. Pharmacists need to step up as an integral part of the healthcare team, and stop referring patients back to hospitals, clinics and physicians for management of prescription issues. Reasoning from first principles and thinking through a problem is no longer enough- pharmacists must get comfortable making treatment decisions and this means getting comfortable with the risk of making a mistake. It is new ground for many pharmacists and the new expectation of the College.

Pharmacists were assured that they have the support of their college.This is a significant message- there have been times when the Ontario College of Pharmacists itself seemed to struggle “navigating the grey” and was inclined to stick to the rules as right or wrong, black or white. These are new times.

Professor Austin offered a look at what might explain the slower than expected uptake of expanded scope of practice by pharmacists. There is research behind this. Of a number of factors, two behavioral barriers in pharmacists have been identified as most likely modifiable: fear of conflict and self-confidence. If viewed collectively, we can say that pharmacists and physicians operate under very different personality traits.

Simply knowing this, and adjusting to that reality can make all the difference and a program is in development now at U of T to address exactly this for pharmacists working with expanded authority.

So we continue to chip away at the barriers to authentic change in pharmacy practice. At this particular meeting there was no mention of the current struggle between the business and the profession and where the power lies.

But this was the elephant in the room. Could it be that as pharmacists step up to meet these new expectations from their governing body, OCP, that perhaps the balance of power will shift?