Verbal confrontation leads to notification


A pharmacist allegedly acted in a rude, aggressive manner towards a person and their family member, an at-risk patient—resulting in a notification

The Pharmacy Board has published a case study looking at disrespectful communication in the sector.

In this instance, there was a miscommunication during a request for a change to a dose administration aid.

This resulted in a “verbal confrontation” between the notifier and the pharmacist, the Board says.

“The verbal confrontation adversely affected the patient as well as the notifier and the pharmacist,” it notes.

“In this case the patient had an intellectual disability and was considered an at-risk patient.”

The notifier alleged that the pharmacist had “acted in a rude and aggressive manner” towards them and the patient.

The Board looked at the incident and decided to take no further action, pointing out that there are different reasons why a Board might choose to go down this path: if there is no ongoing risk to the public that it needs to manage; or when due to action already taken by the individual and/or their workplace, there is no future risk to patient safety.

In this instance, “the pharmacist demonstrated insight into her actions by acknowledging how she should improve her communication,” the Board said.

“The pharmacist expressed regret for her actions and apologised, which demonstrated to the Board that by reflecting on the situation, she would avoid similar incidents in future.

“As the pharmacist had already taken action to improve her practice, the Board decided to take no further action in this instance.”

However, the Board also pointed out that there are lessons to be learned from this notification.

“Pharmacists have a responsibility to be courteous and respectful to their patients as outlined in the Pharmacy Board’s Code of Conduct,” it says.

This includes that pharmacists listen to their patients, ask for and respect their views about their health, and respond to their concerns and preferences.

They also need to have an awareness of health literacy issues, taking these into account and/or adjusting their communication accordingly; and endeavouring to confirm that a patient or client understands what a practitioner has said.

The Board also notes that patients or clients—including those with impaired decision-making capacity—have additional needs.

“As stated in the code, good practice in managing the care of these patients or clients includes: paying particular attention to communication; recognising that there may be a range of people involved in their care such as carers, family members or a guardian, and involving them when appropriate; and being aware that these patients or clients may be at greater risk.”

When a patient does complain, good practice involves acknowledging their right to do so, the Board says.

Good practice also includes listening to the person; acknowledging any distress they are feeling and providing appropriate support; and providing a prompt, open and constructive response including an explanation and, if appropriate, an apology.

“When a patient makes a complaint to the pharmacist, effective communication with the person can resolve the issue and ensure that the patient’s care is not adversely affected,” says the Pharmacy Board.

“If a patient believes that they have not been listened to and their care has been adversely affected, they are more likely to lodge a formal notification with the Board.”

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