Cautionary tales exist to provide us a valuable lesson. In this digital generation, and in the context of the allied healthcare field, these tales take the form of news stories that encourage people to do their job well, like in the case of Stacy Hawk, a 34-year-old pharmacy technician who was sentenced to six years in prison last week. Her tale is just an example of what happens to pharmacy technicians out there when they assume they’re above the law—something that may or may not be highlighted by basic pharmacy technician training.
According to an NBC 4 report, Hawk admitted to stealing hydrocodone tablets from her employer in 2012, following an investigation conducted by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and the local police department. Hawk’s employer, Fruth Pharmacy in Pomeroy, tipped off the Pomeroy Police Department after a significant number of hydrocodone tablets (Lorcet, Lortab, and Vicodin are popular brand names for hydrocodone) went missing.
Police officers found prescription drugs, paraphernalia and weapons in Hawk’s possession. Hawk is currently facing two felony counts for drug possession and one felony count of drug theft in Meigs County, Ohio. She’ll be spending six years behind bars.
We can only assume that having access to various kinds of drugs had been tempting for Hawk that she finally gave in. But as the saying goes, no secret remains hidden for long. The made-up inventory entries and discrepancies in hydrocodone stocks were a giveaway to pharmacy owners, who, of course, had to check whether medication stocks were good and replenished from time to time as part of their business obligations. Hawk could also be exhibiting unprofessional behaviors at work due to her drug use which had prompted employers to check on the matter.
Hawk, perhaps, could also be struggling with personal issues that forced her to succumb to criminal ways. Unfortunately, the US judicial system doesn’t condone addicts and the people who make them.
The pharmacy industry is regulated by not just one but several federal and local government agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and State Board of Pharmacy, to name a few. If you’re a pharmacy technician, you should know by now that these agencies conduct inspections and require your employers to submit pertinent documents to practice, albeit at irregular intervals. Needless to say, any wrongdoing will be found out one way or another.
On a sidenote, such wrongdoings may be innocent or unintentional as well. The downside, however, is that such mistakes do cost money and may cost you your job too. Here are some ways to avoid theft and fraud on the job even when working under pressure:
Keep calm and tell your customer to relax. The only way that you can accomplish your prescription order is by telling your customer to calm down when they’re pressuring you to fill in their scripts. As a Sunrise, Florida senior technician advices a newbie in a Student Doctor forum: “Tell the person to give you a second. Be honest and the customer will understand.”
Double-check with your boss or Google. Unsure about something? Do not type or package anything yet. Consult with your supervising pharmacist before making a decision. If it’s just a matter of pharmacy technology terminologies and their usage, then it wouldn’t hurt to Google them. Check out Meditec’s resources tools for commonly used medical terminologies and PharmCatalyst.com’s for a list of drug-related information and healthcare resources.
Verify computations and prescriptions. Forced to do some math? Calculate again. Can’t decipher the doctor’s handwriting? Stop guessing! Coordinate with the doctor or ask your pharmacist before making any move.
Do not participate in any criminal activity at all cost! Crime does pay. Say no to any offer that will have you smuggling drugs out of the pharmacy or doctoring sales and insurance records even if it means receiving thousands of dollars in return.
Integrity may not be something that’s literally taught to you during pharmacy technician training, but it’s what those lessons on laws and regulations and accuracy all boil down to. Don’t think that the challenges you face on the job are there to make your job harder; these challenges are meant to make you better.