Posted by: ayrshirehealth | February 26, 2014

My sojourn in a foreign land by @medsafetybird

Looking Back

Just over two years ago an opportunity was presented to my family that would turn our lives upside down. It started with a simple phone call from my husband, saying he had been offered a job in Houston. HoustonNot the Renfrewshire Houston, but Houston of the Texan variety.

Whilst I was excited about the opportunity I had reservations, even as a person who likes to feel the sun on her skin, meaning Scotland and I were always going to have our issues, I was still nervous. For those reading who know me, stepping away from my career was the biggest hurdle. My passion for my role as medication safety officer in NHS Grampian, and the work I did nationally on VTE prevention and medicines reconciliation was clear, and here I was suddenly faced with walking away from it all.  I have family that I love very much in Scotland, both of whom have complex medication regimen and I knew part of the work I was involved in had a direct impact on them and their safety, I was anxious because it wasn’t finished, and was far from being implemented reliably. Trying to support them from 5000 miles away is a challenge, though not impossible, as their GP will tell you (through gritted teeth, I’m sure). Where there is will there is always a way.

Moving forward

I was introduced to twitter in April 2011 by @HF_IHI_Fellow  in Amsterdam at the IHI Forum I was there as part of the SPSP fellowship and we were encouraged to share our learning in different ways. Twitter Twitter appealed to my straightforward nature and 140 characters meant it couldn’t get too flowery! It was a great feeling to have this place I could talk about medication safety and didn’t see people yawn. That’s how I started and I’ve been tweeting ever since.

My use of twitter really came into its own when I finally resigned and made the move to join my Husband in Texas. I didn’t really know who I was when I arrived here. Gone was the stuck record that continually flew the flag of what can only be described as some of the less sexy areas of patient safety. I had left behind a lot both personally and professionally. Suddenly I was introduced as Freya’s Mom or Barry’s wife and whilst yes I am proudly both of these, I still wanted to stamp my feet and say I’m a person in my own right! In those first few months when I tried to come to terms with the change Twitter was my medium to join online discussions, ask questions, share my knowledge and opinions, in short, it enabled me to stay connected to things that were important to me professionally when personally I was lost.

Opening new doors

The move to Texas has opened doors for me both personally and professionally. Currently I work for Robert Gordon University (RGU) with the School of Pharmacy and life sciences.  RGUI am fortunate to work in a team that are willing to take into account a 6hr time difference and 5000 miles to work with me., even if secretly they think my ideas are a little off the wall sometimes. I always believed that embedding an understanding of patient safety, quality improvement and human factors in our undergraduate program was vital. Enabling the students through knowledge and a collection of practical tools giving them the confidence to contribute to the patient safety work, or if they choose, be a lone nut and start a movement.

I feel privileged to now be a part of that both through RGU and the IHI Open School.

I’m optimistic too that students will feel confident to use social media as a professional asset to connect and share. They have already done homework via twitter so it’s not a huge step for them.

My Curiosity

Many of my American friends are curious that I gain so much through using twitter, as it was not a medium they had considered using.  Their comments made me consider my use of twitter, so I did a test. I withdrew from twitter for almost 6 weeks, some days I reverted to my old behaviors but mostly I stuck to the plan of not accessing twitter.  As predicted I felt out of touch and frustrated. I also have a whole list of things I want to share so I’m looking forward to re entering the twitterverse and seeing what is currently generating discussion. I also need to provide a few tutorials for my friends that are now signed up and exploring their own curiosities.

I’m curious as to how my sojourn in a foreign land will change me and how I will use my learning.

Learning comes in many forms and a move of 5000 miles might seem a little extreme but in simple terms I was taken from my comfort zone to a place where everything was new and a challenge.

Through my reflection I’ve learnt so much and some of it as basic as remembering that everyone is a person in their own right. I’d also forgotten how hard change can be.  I’ve learnt that quality improvement skills are totally transferable to just about every situation you can imagine, carpool is a process just like any other!

Although the prospect of a huge change may seem really daunting we really have to tools and the capabilities to deal with pretty much anything that is thrown at us, and if you think you don’t, you will most likely find a friend who can help, even if its 140 characters from someone on the other side of the world.

Looking Backward

This week’s blogger is @medsafetybird (Jennie Ross).  Jennie is a registered nurse and a lecturer at Robert Gordon University in Patient Safety, she has an MSc in Human Factors and is a Scottish Patient Safety Programme Fellow.

Please feel free to leave comments on Jennie’s blog by using the comments box below.


  1. […] flag of what can only be described as some of the less sexy areas of patient safety.” In My sojourn in a foreign land, she wrote about moving from Scotland to Texas and her passion for patient safety, a subject in […]

  2. It’s great to hear how Twitter has helped you to share ideas – great stuff!

    – Dyfrig

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