Naomi Burns photo

Interview

From coroner’s inquests to research publications: Life as a Medicines Safety pharmacist

How have you reached this point in your career?

I started working in the area of medicines safety back in 2000 when clinical governance was just taking hold. I worked in the offices of the Patient Safety team thanks to the excellent foresight of my manager at the time. I investigated medication incidents, completed RCAs and began to understand the newly emerging safety agenda. I’ve worked in a multitude of settings, from small DGH’s to large teaching trusts, and in different areas of the country. I’ve never had a ‘map’ of where I wanted to be in my career, but I’ve taken opportunities that have come along if I felt they were right for me. The opportunities are out there if you find them and take them.

What challenges have you faced so far?

I had my first personal challenge within a few weeks of starting in medicines safety. I was asked to attend a coroner’s inquest as I had been the lead investigator for a patient safety incident. It was an ordeal, but it prepared me for another one a few years later. 

There have always been and always will be challenges in the profession. Some remain the same, such as having the resources to be able to work safely alongside the increasing demands and expectations on the NHS. Because of the increasing opportunities for pharmacists to work in different fields, retaining staff within acute care is also a challenge.

What keeps you interested?

I love working with different teams. And the variety in my job is phenomenal – it can range from visiting radiology departments one day to paediatrics the next, running multidisciplinary simulation sessions, investigating incidents or continuing to publish my research.

You’re an active member of UKCPA. What benefits does this bring? 

The UKCPA is a community of like-minded people who are willing to share their expertise and improve patient care or services. I joined UKCPA to keep up to date with clinical issues and use the online forum to ask questions of peers across all specialities. I became a committee member of the UKCPA Medicines Safety and Quality Group in order to keep abreast of national developments and work with key individuals in the field. When the eminent chair, Gillian Cavell, retired I became co-Chair with Anna Bischler. I thought it was going to be a difficult role, but I’ve had amazing support from UKCPA and from the group committee. It’s been great working with Anna, bouncing ideas off each other and sharing the workload. We have welcomed new members to the committee who have been very enthusiastic, and we delivered a very successful Masterclass this year. 

Who inspires you? 

Gillian Cavell, Consultant Pharmacist in Medicines Safety at Kings College London, inspired me to follow her lead to improve the medicines safety agenda. I have also been fortunate enough to attend the International Forum of Safety & Quality in Healthcare several times and this has always provided me with great optimism and ideas from all over the world to take home.

Tell us something people don’t know about you. 

I play a steel pan in a band called Euphoria. We’re available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and birthdays!

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