Responsibilities of students and interns

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All students and interns are registered with AHPRA, and therefore have the responsibility to comply with the guidelines and protocols associated with registration.

As pharmacists are held to higher standards of behaviour and actions than the general public, poor personal choices made by students and interns could have an impact on their careers.

There is a provision in the National Law (Section 130) that requires pharmacists to notify AHPRA of certain events. One of these events is if a student or intern is charged with an offence punishable by 12 months imprisonment or more. The keyword is charged which does not necessarily mean a conviction or sentence.

For pharmacy interns, a notifiable event is the failure to have appropriate professional indemnity insurance in place. Students and interns have a complimentary PDL membership to satisfy this important requirement.

Students, interns and registered pharmacists need to be aware that their actions outside of the workplace can impact their registration if they are charged with an offence against the law. Some examples of events reportable to AHPRA could be domestic violence charges, drug possession and use and driving under the influence of alcohol. It should be noted that minor traffic offences and parking fines are not notifiable events.

Students and interns also have major responsibilities to their pharmacy and supervisors. As this group is not yet fully registered, ALL of their work and actions must be supervised by a registered pharmacist. Supervision does not only apply to dispensing functions, it is also necessary for advice given to the public along with the provision of scheduled and non-scheduled items. Sometimes, students and interns can become overconfident in their abilities and fail to have all their work checked. The following case studies illustrate this point.

Intern case study one

A customer asked an intern for a dietary potassium supplement. Without seeking supervisory assistance, the intern provided potassium permanganate with little instruction. The customer dissolved some in water and swallowed the mixture which resulted in severe burning and ulceration of the mouth and the oesophagus.

Intern case study two

A pharmacy that provided DAA packing services was notified of a major change to a patient’s drug profile. An intern was instructed to make the changes in the DAA software but unfortunately made a critical input error. Once the task was completed, the intern failed to ask his preceptor to check the changes so the patient receiving the DAA was significantly impacted.

Although it is generally accepted that the supervising pharmacist will take responsibility for an error made by a student or intern, this is not always the case. Interns particularly have been subjected to regulatory action in rare cases and have even had conditions placed on their registration.

A benefit of a PDL membership is the provision of peer support or legal assistance if one is investigated by a regulator. As most errors made by students and interns transfer to the supervising pharmacist, this cohort has a responsibility to the checking pharmacist to have all their work approved before being released to the public.

Any intern making an error in the practice of pharmacy should report this to their preceptor
and to PDL to ensure the professional indemnity policy will assist if the matter escalates.

PDL would like to wish all students and interns every success in their exams and future careers. We are here to support our pharmacist members 24/7, Australia-wide.

For immediate advice and incident support, call PDL on 1300 854 838 to speak with one of our Professional Officers.