Minna Tuokkola - ISOPP 2014 Summary Report

ISOPP 2014 was a great introduction for me, as a new pharmacist in the field of oncology, to many of the interesting aspects and challenges encountered by professionals practicing in this specialty. I enjoyed both meeting fellow colleagues from around the world, as well as learning from experts in the field. I picked up many clinical and practical “pearls” that will help me in my future practice.
The chemotherapy safety sessions by ISMP and Human Era impressed upon me the importance of evaluating the safe handling practices at our centre, as well as my own personal approach to safety. This applies not only to patient safety by creating systems to avoid medication errors, but also to protecting staff from unnecessary exposure to hazardous drugs.  My eyes were opened to the multifactoral issues that influence the occurrence of errors, such as system failures, staff and psychological issues, workload, equipment and surroundings, management, and political & professional practice. Much can be done to optimize working conditions in order to minimize opportunities for errors and to maximize patient and staff safety. One practical tool that I came away with was the “CHECK” acronym (Correct patient/drugs/date, Height/weight OK, Evaluate labs, Calculate doses, Know dose levels/limits). I am using this in my daily practice as a quick reminder to cover all the bases while checking patient charts for chemotherapy. Our facility is also planning to trial a closed system of drug preparation and delivery, and I’m looking forward to exploring the benefits to staff safety.
Judith Smith’s session on professional development was very encouraging. She had a lot of good ideas on career planning and finding a mentor, issues that are relevant to me as I embark on a new phase in my own career. I appreciated her candor and willingness to share personal experiences in her own professional pathway. My hope is to find a mentor who is willing to encourage and help develop my skills and goals for the future.
The closing plenary panel on Global perspectives in Oral Anti-Neoplastic Agents was particularly fascinating for me, and I took away several great ideas for developing our own oral chemo patient education program. One of the issues I have as a beginner in oncology is finding the right resources to educate myself on oral anticancer agents so that I can become an effective educator for our patients. I came away with some fantastic online resources and personal contacts who I believe will be very helpful in achieving this goal.
One of the speakers who had the most impact on me was Mike Lang. His inspiring sessions on the lived experiences of cancer and the untold stories of family caregivers really encouraged me to look beyond the clinical and mechanical aspects of chemotherapy, and to truly see the people who are the whole reason we are all there. If I can have one meaningful, personal interaction with someone each day, even if it has nothing to do with their cancer treatment, then I may be able to make a difference in their lives that has far more impact than I could ever know.
I’m very grateful to CAPhO for making it possible for me to attend ISOPP 2014, and in the coming days I plan to take in even more of the interesting symposium events that I missed through the online recorded presentations.