HealthPRO Pharmacist Profile Series, Part IV: Tracey Simpson
Q: What inspired you to become a pharmacist?
A: I grew up in Hanna in rural Alberta (home of Nickelback). My mother worked as a front store manager at the pharmacy. My sister and I helped, handing out flyers and stocking comic book shelves. Eventually, I became a clerk, then a pharmacy assistant. There was one pharmacist I greatly admired. She was very intelligent and pleasant. She made the job interesting. By grade nine, I was convinced I wanted to become a pharmacist. That led me, at 17, to attend pharmacy school at the University of Alberta, graduating in 1991. I worked every summer in Hanna, and, my first fulltime pharmacist job was at that same pharmacy. It was partially to repay my boss who had given me employment throughout the years and had treated me well.
Q: How has your role changed over the years?
A: From being a community pharmacist, I joined a multidisciplinary team at a specialty pharmacy that provided clinical services to a seniors’ residence. I got thrust into management quite early in my career and liked the challenge of it. I progressed to the Capital Care Group, a public sector organization that provided long-term care for 2,500 residents. Again, I was a manager. All of this led to my current role, which was newly created for Alberta Health Services. My role has evolved into one that concentrates on better inventory management, moving inventories to areas of need and managing drug shortages in the province.
Another part of my portfolio is to oversee service contracts with outpatient pharmacies located in our hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary.
Moving to the HealthPRO GPO was a huge change for pharmacy in Alberta. Engaging with clinical and pharmacy directors from across the country who have expertise in supply chain management has had a significant impact on my career. And, on Alberta Health Services.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in hospital pharmacy today?
A: Specific to my portfolio and role as a senior leader, it is drug shortages. We are constantly striving to balance assurance of supply while keeping our costs down and staying within budget. I ultimately represent that pharmacist or physician trying to provide the best, safest patient care.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being a hospital pharmacist?
A: Anyone in pharmacy management will tell you they’re pulled in many directions. My diverse portfolio gives me something new to tackle every day. Not just shortages, but something related to procurement and inventory. That keeps me on my toes and makes my position rewarding.
And while my current role doesn’t involve direct patient contact, ultimately I am a pharmacist. I am accountable to the profession. At our meetings, we always begin with a patient story, to remind us to see the patient at the end of the process. That’s the reward: a patient who benefits from our deliberations and decisions.
Q: What is most the interesting or exciting prospect you see on the horizon for hospital pharmacies?
A: In Alberta, it’s the expanded scope of practice and the additional prescribing authority. The continued opportunity to engage with the vendor community and Health Canada to improve drug shortages is interesting. As an advocate, my goal will always be to work with agencies to improve this situation.
Q: What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about the hospital pharmacy supply chain?
A: The complexity of our supply chain. Pharmacists, assistants and technicians provide these services. For the most part, we learn about how to manage the supply chain on the job. Generally, we don’t have supply chain expertise when we arrive. Our training is all about providing clinical services to patients. But pharmacy specialists have become experts at complex procurement processes and inventory management.
Q: How does being part of a national GPO help you strengthen patient safety?
A: The HealthPRO product evaluation process [and the committee], provides a thorough review of products and is quite advanced. Patient safety is strengthened through sharing information. People come to the HealthPRO monthly meetings because they get something out of them. A national forum like this brings forward patient safety issues and look alike issues. These conversations can avert patient safety incidents because if it’s a problem in one part of the country, it’s likely a problem in another.