ASHP InterSections ASHP InterSections

March 25, 2019

IHI National Steering Committee for Patient Safety

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

I REPRESENT ASHP ON THE Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) National Steering Committee for Patient Safety and, in that regard, bring pharmacy’s perspectives to this very important initiative. I would like to give you an update on our progress.

The IHI National Steering Committee has representatives from the American Hospital Association, American College of Healthcare Executives, The Joint Commission, American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, National Quality Forum, CMS, CDC, AHRQ, ISMP, FDA, AARP, and several other prominent organizations involved in patient safety. The committee is charged with creating a National Action Plan to guide patient safety efforts across the country in a cohesive and coordinated fashion. The National Action Plan will focus on the following core areas related to patient safety issues: culture, leadership and governance, learning systems, patient and family engagement, and workforce safety.

To facilitate the work around these core areas, the National Steering Committee members have been divided into subcommittees. I am serving on the Culture, Leadership, and Governance Subcommittee. In addition, ASHP Past President Lisa Gersema and Immediate Past President Paul Bush have been appointed to serve on the Patient and Family Engagement and Workforce Safety subcommittees, respectively.

The work of the subcommittees is well underway and includes assessment of available evidence and best practices, development of key recommendations to influence change at the national level, and practical tactics for implementation and measurement. The subcommittees’ work will continue throughout 2019. A release of the National Action Plan is expected by early 2020.

ASHP is proud to represent the collective efforts of our nearly 50,000 members in the creation of a national strategy for reducing harm in the delivery of healthcare. Though priorities often shift based on the evolving healthcare landscape, ASHP remains committed to its vision that medication use will be optimal, safe, and effective for all people all of the time. Active engagement of pharmacists, pharmacy residents, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians in the creation and implementation of this national patient safety strategy will ensure that pharmacy is positioned to help people achieve optimal health outcomes.

Since the release of the landmark To Err Is Human report in 1999, patients and family caregivers, healthcare providers, professional organizations, accrediting bodies, policymakers, and many other stakeholders have made significant progress in advancing patient safety. While this work has resulted in important improvements in the safety of our healthcare system, there is still a need for greater coordination of our efforts. Working in silos can lead to suboptimal patient outcomes, duplication of efforts, lack of accountability, barriers to collective learning, and missed opportunities for strategic approaches — thus the impetus for the work of the IHI National Steering Committee for Patient Safety.

As you continue your professional journeys to zero patient harm, ASHP will continue to play a critical role as your organizational partner and collective professional voice.

Thank you for all that you do to support and sustain a strong culture of safety on behalf of your patients and for being members of ASHP.



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March 15, 2019

Residency Match Day 2019

Paul W. Abramowitz, Pharm.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), FASHP

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WHO MATCHED DURING PHASE I of the 2019 Residency Match! By pursuing a residency, you have chosen to distinguish yourself by furthering your education and training. You are on the path to becoming the medication expert on the patient care team in all settings of care.

This year marks 56 years since ASHP began accrediting residencies and 40 years since ASHP’s Residency Match program began. Of our total 5,134 residency positions in 2019, 4,697 are now filled, with the remainder to be filled in Phase II of the Match. If you did not match during the first round, I encourage you to enter into Phase II of the Match, as there are still a number of exceptional programs with unfilled positions. ASHP’s Residency Guide: Preparation for Phase II of the Match, created by members of the New Practitioners Forum, can help you get ready for the next round.

ASHP is committed to continuing to increase the number of residency programs available in the years to come. Over the last five years, PGY1 residency positions have grown by 34% and PGY2 positions by 64%. Specifically, PGY2 residencies in ambulatory care grew by 112%, infectious disease residencies by 68%, and oncology residencies by 40%. Expansive growth occurred in emergency medicine residencies, which grew by 230%, and in pain management and palliative care residencies, which increased by 127%.

This remarkable growth shows that residency-trained pharmacists are in demand. I know that the year ahead will reward you and challenge you, creating a unique experience in your professional journey. As your professional home, ASHP is here to support you as you take this exciting step. ASHP offers a variety of resources tailored for residents, including the AJHP Residents Edition, an exceptional peer-reviewed platform dedicated to pharmacy residents, and the Career Transitions Resource Center. During your residency, stay up-to-date with best practices in research by viewing Essentials of Practice-Based Research for Pharmacists. Finally, be sure to stay involved in the ASHP New Practitioners Forum, which provides career guidance, clinician well-being and resilience resources, and opportunities for volunteer leadership.

On behalf of ASHP, congratulations once again! We are very proud of your accomplishments and wish you the best of luck throughout your residency training. I look forward to seeing you in December at the Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition in Las Vegas.





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March 8, 2019

North Dakota Technician Champions National Certification

This article is part of a series featuring ASHP’s pharmacy technician members and their valuable contributions to the profession. Check out ASHP’s Pharmacy Technician Forum for more information about efforts to advance the pharmacy technician workforce, as well as ways for pharmacy technicians to become more involved in ASHP.


Diane Halvorson, CPh.T.

AS A YOUNG ADULT, Diane Halvorson, CPh.T., never intended to become a pharmacy technician. But now, more than 25 years later, she has a gratifying career and is an influential figure in the field. As Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy in Fargo, N.D., Halvorson is a staunch advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Successful Technician
Halvorson began working at a hospital pharmacy more than two decades ago. As a single mother, she needed to find a way to support her son. Halvorson was lucky enough to learn the pharmacy technician trade on the job. She didn’t have any experience, but back then the job of a pharmacy technician was “very basic,” she said. She mostly managed the prescription medication stock.

Over time, her boss (the pharmacy director) took notice of her attention to detail and ability to manage her time and work efficiently. “As pharmacy evolved, I evolved along with it,” she said. “I became a sponge and started attending conventions, conferences, and any continuing education I could to expand my knowledge. The support of my peers and leaders gave me the confidence to excel.” When she began serving on the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy in 2011, she realized it was time to become certified.

“I have taken every opportunity to gain the knowledge and understanding of pharmacy and have evolved into the person I am today,” she said

National Standards for Techs
As a member of ASHP and other national and state pharmacy organizations, Halvorson was appointed by the governor of North Dakota to serve a second term on the North Dakota State Board of Pharmacy, with a goal of implementing education and certification programs in the state. The position has provided a forum to speak out about the need for standardizing pharmacy technician training across the nation.

Currently, there is no standard training or certification on a national level to become a pharmacy technician. Education and certification requirements to earn a CPh.T. degree vary by state. Some states may require more training than others, additional exams, or recertification.

But standardization in the profession is needed now more than ever. Pharmacists are now working in more clinical roles, but prescriptions still need to be filled. “Pharmacy technicians should have the credentials and knowledge to fulfill this role safely and accurately,” said Halvorson.

Expanding Tech Education
Halvorson and many of her colleagues would like to see pharmacy technicians undergo the same rigors of training that pharmacists face. “I feel we should have a national standard that establishes a way to ensure all pharmacy technicians have a baseline knowledge when entering the profession,” said Halvorson. “While our education would not be as detailed as the pharmacist, our process should mirror the process of the pharmacist.” The process would include the completion of an exam that verifies the baseline knowledge, she added.

Halvorson is an advocate for improving technician certification and education programs.

Some of the strictest requirements in her field exist in her home state of North Dakota, where pharmacy technicians are required to receive their education from an ASHP/ACPE accredited program. They must take a national certification exam to demonstrate their knowledge of the field, and they may only earn their certification in the state after meeting those requirements.

Hospital pharmacies in North Dakota are also required to have a quality assurance program to track prescription errors. “If you have a near-miss or a mistake that reaches the patient, you need to document it,” said Halvorson. “Was this an isolated incident? Was there a product problem or process problem or personnel problem?”

Technician Advocacy
Donna Kisse, CPh.T., is a pharmacy technician who has gotten to know Halvorson through their service together in North Dakota’s Northland Association for Pharmacy Technicians. Kisse and other colleagues admire Halvorson for the advocacy work she’s taken on toward a goal of consistent, national certification requirements for pharmacy technicians.

“Since pharmacists are taking the lead in clinical patient care roles, pharmacy technicians must be leaders in supporting standardized qualifications to ensure pharmacies are safe, efficient, and have productive work environments,” said Kisse.

Halvorson became involved with ASHP through the Pharmacy Technicians Stakeholders Consensus Conference steering and advisory committee. “For me, being a member of ASHP has elevated my overall knowledge and fundamental understanding of the opportunities of expansion of the scope of practice that a pharmacy technician can achieve,” she said.

The ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum, which launched last year, has also been integral to her efforts. She currently serves on the forum’s Patient Care Quality Advisory Group committee.

Halvorson began her technician career more than two decades ago and currently serves as the Lead Pharmacy Technician at Vibra Hospital Pharmacy.

Reducing Prescription Errors
Halvorson hopes that all states will move toward following strict training guidelines like those in North Dakota. By not standardizing pharmacy technician training, Halvorson said the profession is putting the safety of patients in jeopardy. “The consumer believes that any person behind the pharmacy counter has education, that those people know what they’re doing, and that they have a minimum education.”

She recalled an incident that made headlines years ago. It involved Emily Jerry, a three-year-old girl in Ohio who died in 2006 as a result of a hospital pharmacy technician error. At the time of the toddler’s death, Ohio didn’t register pharmacy technicians or require any training or licensing to do the job. In 2009, Emily’s Act was signed into law. The legislation requires that pharmacy technicians be at least 18 years of age, register with the State Board of Pharmacy, and pass a Board-approved competency exam. It also includes requirements related to technician training.

“Humans make errors, and that’s why in a pharmacy you have a check and balance,” Halvorson said. That safety net wouldn’t exist without Halvorson and other passionate pharmacy technicians.

By Jessica Firger


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