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Expanding Horizons: Graduate Student and Perinatal Nurse Kelly McKeown Explores Nursing’s Impact on Safety with Unique Practicum Experience

Kelly and Erin with Incubator
Graduate student and perinatal nurse Kelly McKeown, BSN, RN (left), completed her Spring 2023 Practicum in Parent-Child Nursing course at ISMP to learn more about medication safety and also worked with ISMP’s affiliate ECRI on additional mother-baby safety issues. She is seen here with ECRI’s Erin Sparnon, Senior Engineering Manager viewing an incubator in the ECRI lab that was on site for use in device analysis and simulation testing. McKeown shared her perinatal expertise with the staff while broadening her view of the nurse’s impact in health care safety organizations.

Graduate student Kelly McKeown, BSN, RN found her joy when in 2016 she transitioned from two years of oncology nursing to perinatal nursing. She practices on both the labor & delivery and postpartum units at Main Line Health’s Bryn Mawr Hospital. “It was here that I discovered my passion for caring for patients before, during and after pregnancy, as well as their newborn babies,” she says.

Inspired by her own experience with faculty and preceptors as a student and novice nurse, McKeown found herself “drawn to the education aspect of nursing, including the education of patients, new nurses and nursing students.” She chose Villanova’s Fitzpatrick College of Nursing to earn her Master of Science in Nursing degree in education because her professional beliefs resonated with FCN’s philosophy and “I knew that it would provide me with an enriched and challenging educational experience,” she explains.

Ready for her clinical placement for her Practicum in Parent-Child Nursing course, she discussed ideas with her faculty Professor Linda Copel, PhD, RN, PMHCNS, BC, CNE, ANEF, NCC, FAPA and indicated her interest in learning more about the role of the nurse educator in a pharmaceutical or medical device company.

Dr. Copel presented an opportunity at the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) which is focused on prevention of medication errors and promoting safe medication practices and with which FCN has a memorandum of understanding. ISMP is an affiliate of ECRI, an independent, nonprofit organization improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of care across all health care settings and is the only organization worldwide to conduct independent medical device evaluations. Both are based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. “I knew that it would be a valuable and unique clinical experience,” McKeown notes. 

“This was a significant opportunity for a graduate student in the nursing education track to learn and to participate in the behind-the-scenes aspects of why specific medication safety measures are essential and to become aware of medication safety needs throughout the country,” explains Dr. Copel.

McKeown hoped to “learn more about the different perspectives of the multidisciplinary team in relation to medication safety, as well as ISMP’s collaboration with other patient safety organizations” and how her experience as a nurse working in inpatient care offers a valuable perspective on improving medication safety.

While much of her work was virtual, McKeown was onsite at ECRI in March with preceptor Susan Paparella ’86 BSN, ’02 MSN, RN, Vice President, Services at ISMP. “The experience was amazing,” she shares, adding, “My preceptor, Susan Paparella, was extremely accommodating and eager to help me meet the objectives of my clinical experience.  All the employees were welcoming and supportive of my learning, and receptive to the ideas and experiences I shared. I participated in editing newsletters, literature reviews, clinical team meetings, and meetings with outside professional organizations that collaborate with ISMP, such as the FDA and international patient safety organizations.” 

Dr. Copel sees the value in this relationship, “This important work on medication safety allows the student to become involved in developing clinical educational programs. By combining clinical expertise, research, literature review, conference participation, and participation in the work processes of ISMP’s multidisciplinary team, the student is immersed in the science and rationale for medication safety measures.”

McKeown demonstrated her educational strength by creating content for a Perinatal Medication Safety presentation given at the Maryland Patient Safety Center in April by Michelle Mandrack, MSN, RN, Director of Consulting Services at ISMP.  In May, McKeown was the key speaker on a podcast on oxytocin safety supporting ISMP’s international efforts to reduce risk related to its use and provide targeted recommendations for safety.  “Having worked as a perinatal nurse for over six years, this is an area I am passionate about and well-versed in.  I was excited and grateful for the opportunity to address medication safety in the perinatal setting to improve care for all birthing parents and their newborns,” she says.   

McKeown says she enjoys educating students and other healthcare professionals, as well as patients and the public and so is open to a wide variety of roles. She notes, “Ultimately, I hope to continue to work in a perinatal setting, as I am passionate about supporting patients and improving care outcomes in this population.”