Pharmacy is a profession. Despite the challenges to professionalism presented by changes in health care, pharmacists must embrace the responsibilities that stem from their profession’s guiding principles. Among those responsibilities are advancing the well-being and dignity of their patients, acting with integrity and conscience, collaborating respectfully with health care colleagues, and seeking justice in the distribution of health care resources.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) encourages pharmacy practitioners, administrators, faculty members, preceptors, and students to advance patient care and strengthen the pharmacy profession by promoting professionalism in everyday practice. ASHP urges pharmacists to dedicate themselves to serving the interests of their patients and to practicing with compassion and respect for patients and their families. Pharmacists should commit to working cooperatively with and with respect for other health care providers and to seeking to improve the quality of health care received by the communities in which they work and live. ASHP encourages pharmacists to serve as mentors to students, residents, and colleagues in a manner that fosters the adoption of high professional aspirations for pharmacy practice, high personal standards of integrity and competence, a commitment to serving humanity, habits of analytical thinking and ethical reasoning, and a commitment to lifelong learning.
Between 1995 and 2005, the number of PubMed-indexed articles on professionalism quadrupled, from 50 to approximately 200 per year.1 Professional associations from the American College of Physicians–American Society of Internal Medicine to the American College of Dentistry have convened task forces, developed white papers and charters, and initiated programs to increase the professionalism of their members.2–6
The rising interest in professionalism has been attributed to the perception that changes in health care delivery are eroding the professional standards of health care providers.2 Among the changes confronting the pharmacy profession are managed care’s continuing emphasis on cost containment7; increased demand for systems that ensure the safety of medication use8; technology-driven changes in pharmacy’s core responsibilities, the most important of which is an expansion of the pharmacist’s role in patient care7,9,10; and a prolonged shortage of pharmacists.11 As such challenges mount, it is in the best interest of our profession and the public we serve to reaffirm our foundational principles. Hospital and health-system pharmacists must therefore define for themselves the principles that will guide them in their unique practice settings.
Guiding Principles and Responsibilities for Health-System Pharmacy
The use of the term “profession” to describe a group of individuals pursuing an occupation or career is based on the idea that these individuals profess a common purpose.12 The common purpose of pharmacists is eloquently stated in the eight principles of the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists.13
Professing these principles creates responsibilities for pharmacists. Foremost among these responsibilities is the obligation to place the well-being of patients at the center of pharmacy practice. Many of the other principles flow from the covenantal relationship between the pharmacist and the patient. To provide the best possible care, pharmacists dedicate themselves to maintaining professional competence through lifelong learning and contemplation. Professional education and advancing standards of practice can only be achieved through a profession’s collective efforts; pharmacists therefore commit themselves to serve not only their patients but also their profession. Finally, pharmacists commit themselves to improving health care institutions not simply for the well-being of individual patients but for the benefit of society as a whole.
Incorporating Professionalism into Practice
ASHP encourages practitioners, administrators, faculty members, preceptors, and pharmacy students to contemplate and to incorporate into their practices the guiding principles set forth in the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists13 and the following 10 characteristics of a professional:
- Knowledge and skills of the profession,
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