Looking back and looking forward

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While 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges, pharmacy has a lot to be proud of, and much to build on in 2021, says Kristen Michaels

In the next of our series of columns from leaders of the profession, SHPA CEO, Kristen Michaels looks back at 2020, and looks at what may lay ahead for the profession.

It does not require repeating that 2020 has been an extraordinary year.

Equally extraordinary though, was the response of hospital pharmacists and technicians across the country when the threat of COVID-19 was the most uncertain from mid-March into April.

This was evident in the numbers, with more than 900 signing up to the SHPA Hospital Pharmacy Relief Register, more than 1,000 accessing Hospital Pharmacy Intro Training, more than 3,000 undertake SHPA’s ICU Upskilling Package and hundreds of posts and thousands of viewers from Australia and around the world across the COVID-19 online forum and special COVID-19 webinar series.

At the coalface, as ICU bed and ventilator capacity dominated the headlines, hospital pharmacists drew urgent attention to the fact that safeguarding Australia’s supply of essential medicines to hospitals was critical to managing a surge in COVID-19 inpatient cases. The resulting COVID-19 Hospital Pharmacy Capacity Snapshot Series prompted international media coverage, and we were sure to release a dedicated report into Regional, Rural and Remote Hospitals was published in July.

While the pandemic held our attention, critical work to address entrenched inequities and care gaps continued, and hospital pharmacists continued to meet the moment.

On World Patient Safety Day in September, SHPA released its Medication Safety Position Statement, outlining how priorities steps – including partnered and interim charting, seven-day services and dedicated medication safety programs – can be taken by Australian hospitals to improve safe patient care, with ramifications across the care continuum.

With Medication Safety and Quality Use of Medicines now Australia’s 10th National Health Priority Area, our members developed a Hospital-initiated medication reviews (HIMR) Hospital pharmacy practice update, to maximise the impact on all-important transitions of care following policy changes informed by the Interim Report recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission.

A view to the future

Into 2021, we will continue to build on our growth and invest in the next generation.

SHPA Foundation Residencies continue to grow at record pace, and we are proud that our next-stage, two-year Advanced Training Residencies are open in accredited workplaces.

We are now training pharmacists in infectious diseases, leadership and management, clinical informatics and cardiology, among other areas, reflecting the desire for specialty focus and maximum impact on patient care honed through experiential learning.

And, to find the silver lining on a very dark cloud, we are pleased to enter 2021 in a strong financial position as we prepare to grow as an agile and contemporary organisation.

This year has seen a generational shift in how we work and how we stay connected in only a matter of months, and SHPA is committed to landmark investment in our digital capabilities to the benefit of our members, their practice and the patients in their care.

Kristin Michaels.
Kristen Michaels is Chief Executive of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA)





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