Threats to Professional Autonomy in Pharmacy

Professional autonomy is necessary to allow pharmacists to fulfill their mission.

Recently, the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP) released an interesting report entitled “Pharmacist Ethics and Professional Autonomy: Imperatives for Keeping Pharmacy Aligned with the Public Interest.” One aspect of the report that got my attention is the observation that, “Because of international trends in health care delivery and financing, practitioners in most (perhaps all) health professions are experiencing threats to professional autonomy.”

The FIP report does an excellent job in documenting why professional autonomy is necessary to allow pharmacists to fulfill their mission. In the report, professional autonomy is defined as the “right and privilege granted by a governmental authority to a class of professionals, and to each licensed individual within that profession, to exercise independent, expert judgment within a legally defined scope of practice, (and) to provide services in the best interests of the client.”

I made a number of observations while reading the report, but I want to share just 2 of them with you. Although it may not be much consolation when an individual feels challenged to compromise his or her professional values, recognizing that pharmacy doesn’t face the issue of professional autonomy alone but, instead, shares it with all other health care professionals can provide some level of encouragement. Another perspective is that no matter the type of health care system involved—entrepreneurial or socialized—we are all facing economic pressures that can challenge professional autonomy. Pharmacy will have to face many obstacles ahead, with or without Obamacare.