President's Message - Keep Moving Forward

by Tom Westerkamp, ICHP President
January 11, 2013

Ever since the movie “Jaws” came out years ago, I have had a healthy respect for (alright, let’s be honest, a dreaded fear of) sharks. My favorite vacation spot generally includes a sunny warm beach near a body of salt water in which I can snorkel. An amazing opportunity to float in warm water observing the multi-colored fish and coral - it’s really living art. But all the while in the water, I always have an eye open for those menacing creatures that strike fear into many people.

I write this article having just returned from the ASHP Midyear Clinical meeting in Las Vegas. In one of the convention hotels, there was a large tank full of brightly colored coral and fish of every shape, size and color. There were also some sharks slowly swimming around, circling the tank, constantly moving. From what I’ve read about these creatures, sharks are constantly moving, continually swimming – on the prowl, I assume, for their next meal…always moving forward.

Having gone to many Midyear meetings over the years, I continually am amazed at all the new technologies and drug therapies that are available to learn about. The exhibit hall is filled with aisle after aisle of new devices, automation, databases, and new drug therapies. The CE sessions are like a grand Las Vegas “buffet for the brain”, where one can select and learn so many new things. One can skim through the program guide and select sessions on a variety of topics. From sunrise breakfasts to midday exhibits, to late afternoon and dinner CE meetings, there is something for all of us to learn.

I think we as pharmacists, students, and technicians all have a responsibility to continue to learn, beyond the minimum CE requirements. It is hard to keep up, with so many new things to learn, but like the shark in that hotel tank that continues to move forward, each of us must continue to learn if we are to be competent. We owe that to our patients. We owe that to those we care for. We can never stop learning.

This Midyear meeting was excellent, and I just wanted to share some highlights of some of the sessions I attended and what I learned. I went to an ASHP state affiliate volunteer presentation on the Pharmacy Practice Model Initiative and heard from national experts on why this initiative is so important to the profession of pharmacy, including input from a panel of state chapter volunteers that shared their PPMI success stories. I and 25,000 of my closest friends heard from President Bill Clinton who presented “Embracing our Common Humanity.”  He described what the William J. Clinton Foundation does and what several of his initiatives are doing to help people domestically and all over the world – truly an inspiring and uplifting presentation. I attended a great interactive session on IV medication errors and the efforts of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices to develop guidelines to help reduce medication errors. I attended another great session on medication errors in anesthesia that provided insights on the errors occurring in ORs and PACUs all over the country, and what each of us can do to reduce the alarmingly high incidence of these events. I went to several “short and sweet” Pearl sessions, which are always popular, and feature a new topic every five minutes (a smorgasbord at the learning buffet!). One of the most informative sessions was an update on ACLS/PALS guidelines, which provided some exceptional insights by experts on adult and pediatric cardiac life support and what we can do to improve Code Blue teams.

The highlight of the conference for me was attending the state affiliate Presidents’ dinner, where I got to meet many state affiliate presidents, ASHP staff members, and dozens of ASHP Past Presidents. Each was friendly, open, approachable, and easy to talk to, and I was so impressed at their taking time to talk to me about where I practice and what is going on in Illinois. It was a superb dinner and a great opportunity to see the inner workings of ASHP.

As I digest all of this and bring it back to the practice of pharmacy in Illinois, I firmly understand why PPMI is important to the profession of pharmacy. That impacts all of us, wherever we practice. The advancement of pharmacists to practice and impact patient care outcomes relies heavily on having a solid drug distribution foundation, and that means that the role of technicians will continue to become more and more important. There is a PPMI task force that is focusing on how we can assist hospitals in getting their PPMI hospital self assessments completed. You will be hearing more about this in the coming months.

We are in the process of rolling out the findings that were discussed at the ICHP Leadership Retreat in November to each of our committees to explore ways of incorporating these areas of focus into their activities this year.  There will be more discussion on these issues in the coming months as well.

Let’s continue to move forward, learning as we go, in order to help improve the care we provide to our patients.

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