Professional Responsibility in Practice

In order to support the safe, effective and ethical delivery of pharmacy services in Ontario pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must clearly understand and adhere to their professional responsibilities in practice. These responsibilities are outlined in legislation, the Standards of Practice and the Code of Ethics — and are reinforced through the Professional Responsibility Principles. The Principles are applicable to all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians regardless of role or practice setting, and reflect the reality that the healthcare environment and pharmacy practice is continuously evolving and may not incorporate a traditional practitioner-patient relationship or practice setting.

Professional Responsibility Principles:


The Principles were developed in response to the March 2013 incident of alleged under-dosing of chemotherapy drugs in four hospitals in Ontario and one in New Brunswick. Although significant attention was given to investigating the incident itself, College Council felt strongly that there were broader lessons that could be learned and shared with all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Council established the Task Force on Professional Responsibility in Practice with a mandate to review pharmacists’ and pharmacy technicians’ practice responsibilities and formulate findings and recommendations that would focus on identifying the broader lessons. The result was the development and unanimous Council approval of the Professional Responsibility Principles — designed to articulate professional responsibilities in practice regardless of a practitioner’s role or practice setting.


  1. Members are relied on to use their knowledge, skills and judgment to make decisions that positively enhance health outcomes for patients and provide patient-focused care.
  2. Pharmacists are responsible for applying therapeutic judgment in order to assess the appropriateness of therapy given individual patient circumstances.
  3. Communication and documentation are central to good patient care when working in a team environment.
  4. Trust in the care provided by colleagues and other health professionals must be balanced with critical evaluation.
  5. Members must be diligent in identifying and responding to red flag situations that present in practice.
Application to Practice

Practicing with these professional responsibilities in mind requires a conscious shift in our focus from the individual task at hand to the bigger picture of patient-focused care. The principles remind us of our overriding responsibility as regulated healthcare professionals, to uphold our ethical and fiduciary duty to put the best interest of our patients first and foremost. We must always remember that as the holder of power in the patient-practitioner relationship our patients trust that we will use our knowledge, skills and abilities to make decisions that positively enhance their health outcomes.

Next Steps

Throughout the coming months and years, the College will continuously share and reinforce these principles with all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Additionally, the principles will be used to guide the development of new or revised programs, policies and guidelines, and will be shared with pharmacy stakeholders — provincially and nationally — to ensure that foundational elements like curriculum and Standards of Practice are appropriately aligned with these important concepts.