Trailblazer earns ACP Honorary Life Membership

July 10, 2019

Linda Poloway was sitting in the emergency department at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton when her phone rang. She thought it might be bad news—it turned out to be the opposite. During the call, she found out she had been selected for an honorary life membership with ACP.

“It was a gobsmacking moment for me, it really was. I was never expecting it,” said Linda. “A lot of my career has been in hospital pharmacy, so when I learned that the Council of the college had bestowed this honour on me, it was just an overwhelming honour and surprise.”

Linda’s career began in 1975 in Red Deer. She quickly became involved in leadership roles at the provincial level and served as president of the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists both provincially and nationally. She was also a Council member with the Alberta Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) in the 1990s, co-chairing the strategic planning committee whose recommendations included a strategy to  create two complementary provincial pharmacy organizations organizations: a regulator (ACP) and an advocate (Alberta Pharmacists’ Association).

“It would have been difficult, and I think we (APhA) experienced some difficulties, in exercising the regulatory role while still being an advocate,” she said. “Sometimes the two didn’t necessarily go along the same line. It was a much freer, much more conflict-free way to go with having advocacy entirely separate.”

In 1995, Linda co-chaired an APhA working group that developed a role statement for pharmacists, which would lay the foundation for the current role statement in the Health Professions Act. In 2007, she left pharmacy to become the patient safety officer at the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

“One of my roles was to meet with a number of disciplines to form a patient safety framework for the province,” Linda said. “The role of the pharmacist was part and parcel of that. It was wonderful having that foundation of the role of the pharmacist. Truly, over the course of my career, that role has expanded exponentially, and I’m delighted to see the way pharmacists are practising today.”

Linda now applies her expertise and experience in root-cause analysis as a consultant, dealing with patient safety issues on a national scale. 

“I do some work with the Canadian Patient Safety Institute looking at the incidents that are published around the world and I also am developing best practices for what are called ‘never events’ in hospitals. Many of them are pharmacy related, but not exclusively,” she said. “And I do some work with a pharmaceutical company on medication safety.”

Linda is pleased that safety has become a priority in the delivery of health care, saying pharmacists have led the way with safety initiatives in many hospitals across the country. As for her personal legacy, Linda sums it up this way:

“One of the VPs I reported to, our chemistry was never great. When I was leaving as patient safety director in Red Deer, she came to me and said, ‘You made a difference, Linda. You began to change the culture in this organization that is looking at safety in everything we do.’ I get goose bumps thinking about that. If I had a legacy, it would have been to make a difference in everything that I did. In our pharmacy department in Red Deer, we were trailblazers. We did stuff before Edmonton and Calgary did. I started the first hospital pharmacy as a brand new grad. It’s nice to know that I had an impact on what I see now are really amazing pharmacy services by amazing people.”

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