Blog Post

Join Me on My (Virtual) Journey as an ISMP/FDA Fellow

Damon Birkemeier, PharmD; 2020-21 ISMP/FDA Safe Medication Management Fellow

The Beginning

As a pharmacy intern, I spent a lot of time in hospital pharmacy and received and read ISMP newsletters for nearly five years. What (or who) exactly is ISMP, I often wondered. Reading their material was captivating, as article after article they described a vast array of medication use problems, problems that were usually never discussed during pharmacy school.

After I took my oath to “devote myself to a lifetime of service to others through the profession of pharmacy” and started to actively practice as a pharmacy resident, I noticed more and more that I really enjoyed the instances where I was able to actively contribute to safe patient care. I participated on my local medication safety committee and in a few medication safety initiatives, all the while continuing to read and act on ISMP newsletters. There were a few instances where I was able to act directly with ISMP; once, I reported to ISMP an incident at my facility where there was a near miss with rocuronium vials being mixed-up with metoprolol vials, and to my amazement the story was published in their next newsletter and disseminated nationwide.

Finally, while reading their Acute Care newsletter article in January 2020, I noticed a blurb: “Become an ISMP Fellow,” and I knew I had to apply. To my surprise, ISMP reached out to set up an interview. Two months later, I was shocked when I received a call from none other than Mike Cohen offering me a position as an ISMP/FDA fellow.

Welcome to the Virtual Fellowship Life

Fellowship life began, albeit a unique twist – COVID-19 brought us social distancing, and social distancing brought us a novel home workforce. I don’t think I nor ISMP expected this, but it’s safe to say we’re managing, nonetheless.

As an ISMP fellow, I have been able to work closely (well, 6+ feet apart!) with and learn from an interdisciplinary team of mediation safety experts. Some of the opportunities I’ve had thus far include:

  • Learning more about a safe medication use process through multiorganizational meetings as well as topic discussions within ISMP

  • Evaluating, discussing, and providing recommendations for medication errors that are reported to ISMP in real time

  • Answering medication safety questions posed by healthcare professionals

  • Reviewing (and helping write) ISMP newsletters and other publications for content and accuracy

  • Reviewing data and presenting information internally to ISMP as well as externally to other organizations

  • Meeting with outside organizations (e.g., drug manufacturers, technology vendors, FDA) to discuss medication safety concerns and solutions

What’s next?

It’s quite astonishing to think that my six months with ISMP are nearly up and that I will soon be relocating to gain valuable experience at FDA. Thus far as an ISMP fellow, I feel like I have obtained a greater understanding of medication safety and have been able to contribute to safe medication practices on a national level!

And, I can finally answer my original question: ISMP is a small group of like-minded practitioners that advocate for patient safety on a national level; an endless gold mine filled with all-sizes of nuggets about medication safety information; and an unrelenting train that delivers necessary changes in both clinical and industrial practice.

People

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