Everyone has a self-identity, and professionals also have a professional identity. Professional identity is a type of social identification and is the sense of oneness individuals have with a profession and the degree to which individuals define themselves as profession members. Professional identity consists of the individual's alignment of roles, responsibilities, values, and ethical standards to be consistent with practices accepted by their specific profession.
Having a sense of professional identity is important for longevity in the profession, prevention of burnout, ethical practice, and mentorship of others in the same field. It has been said that professional work, by definition, requires ethical decision making under circumstances where information is imperfect. Those with a vocational orientation like technicians might be said to lack the psychological fitness to “go the extra mile” required of professionals and thus lack the resilience to manage complexity, adversity, and uncertainty in their environment. As the role of the technician continues to grow, these characteristics will become more important than ever in defining success in the workplace, including ability to exercise professional judgment. Thus, understanding and supporting the expression of technicians’ professional self-identity is essential. Salameh et al describe the successful integration of technicians into community practice.1 The study results strongly suggest that simply regulating technicians does not ensure successful integration and that workplace redesign is essential. Pharmacists and senior technician peers must help them manage interpersonal communication, provide further opportunities for appropriate delegation, and assist them with balancing self-identity with the growing need to inculcate a professional identity.
Pharmacy managers might be under the false impression that merely by graduating from pharmacy school, all pharmacists have been imbued with a keen sense of professional identity. They might assume further that technicians not only lack but really do not need a sense of professional identity. Nothing could be further from the truth. A sense of self-identity will help the technician feel as though they are in a life-long career and will be that much more supportive of the pharmacist’s endeavors and the need to provide high quality patient care. For pharmacists, a lack of professional identity likely results in deficits of altruism, patient care, and camaraderie with colleagues, not to mention detachment from professional organizations that lobby on pharmacy’s behalf. Pharmacy managers can design workflow, write job descriptions, role model behaviors, and provide incentives that promote professional identity among all employees.
Additional information about Organizational Structure and Behavior and Leadership and Pharmacy Technicians can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e.
1Salameh L, Young D, Surkic N, et al. Facilitating integration of regulated pharmacy technicians into community practice in Ontario: Results of an exploratory study. Can Pharm J (Ott). 2018;151:189-196.
Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, Professor of Social/Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University California
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