Blog Post

What does an International Medication Safety fellow do (at home)?

Merissa Andersen, PharmD, MPH; 2020-21 International Safe Medication Management Fellow

When I first applied for the International Medication Safety Management fellowship the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic did not yet exist. Fast forward a few months to my (virtual) interview with ISMP, we were all in our first lockdown. Much to my surprise, shortly after that interview I received a call offering me the fellowship position. I was eager to complete my post graduate year one (PGY-1) residency and begin at ISMP, hopeful that by July this mysterious pandemic would be history.

It turns out that by July when the fellowship was set to commence, the pandemic was still very real. So when you ask, Merissa, how do you do an international fellowship for the comfort of your home? I’ll reply, that is great question. The first few weeks at ISMP were exciting, meeting everyone virtually and getting settled after moving to Pennsylvania from Massachusetts. The staff at ISMP was so welcoming, I still forget to this day that I have not actually met most of the staff in person. After some orientation and a crash course in medication safety through the ISMP Practitioner in Residence Program we were off.

At my first meeting with the executive board of the International Medication Safety Network, I was shocked by how effortlessly we were able to meet on Zoom from the United States, to France, and New Zealand. It was the first time I had been in a meeting where it was afternoon for one of us, nighttime for another, and even the next day for some. The greatest part of virtual meetings is that we could all sit down together without spending days on an airplane to meet. I quickly learned that “Zoom Life” made it so much easier to connect across the globe more frequently and at little to no cost. At this first meeting, the idea was born to create an international medication safety portal open to practitioners across the globe to submit errors and hazards to for expert review and dissemination of knowledge. Now, halfway through my fellowship, I have been able to see this project into fruition and manage any of the reports we do receive. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, the link to the form is here: IMSN Reporting Form).

Since the beginning of the fellowship, we had been looking forward to the IMSN Annual Meeting to be held in Muscat, Oman. Although it is unfortunate we were unable to travel to the meeting in person this year, conducting a virtual meeting again proved to be an efficient way to communicate worldwide. With more than 25 member countries you can imagine the challenge of finding a time that is convenient for everyone to gather. Luckily for me, that time was 07:00 EST (not so bad). It was amazing to see the dedicated members committed to medication safety who joined the call in the middle of the night their time. The ISMP international fellows were lucky to have an opportunity to present on the medication safety challenges and recommendations of vinCRIStine administration in a Minibag and two component vaccine safety.

Over the last seven months I have had the opportunity to speak on several international webinars, and many local programs as well. Another way we stay connected while staying in place is through the IMSN LinkedIn and Twitter pages managed by the fellows. This allows us to share information and connect with colleagues on our own time (follow @intmedsafe for more). With the pandemic at the forefront of all of our minds, we have been able to develop more opportunity for global learning. Recently, the COVID-19 Vaccine Special Interest Group (CVSIG) was launched through the IMSN. This new group allows for us to share our experiences and learn from one another on the safe and efficient administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

Although I may not leave my apartment often, I feel as though I have had ample experiences in International Medication Safety. Going virtual has proven to have many benefits for international communication, including increased ease of meeting and contributing to public health efforts, the greatest benefit of staying home might be that I finally got a puppy! If I have convinced you that this is the job for you, you can apply now.

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Since COVID-19 vaccines were granted emergency use authorization, The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has received reports of errors related to storage, preparation, and administration. Because COVID-19 vaccine errors can result in reduced effectiveness, and other safety implications