In 1997, the first book in the Harry Potter series was published in the United Kingdom. It was at that time, shortly after preparing for our program’s first “FAHCT” inspection, that I considered serving as an inspector. I felt that being able to visit other programs and observe operations firsthand would not only better expose me to the cellular therapy community and provide an educational experience, but also allow me to contribute to process improvement initiatives at the BMT program at UF Health. My first assignment was in 1998. While that seems like a lifetime ago, I continue to appreciate the opportunity to represent FACT as much today as I did back in the “20th century”. Since then, my goal is to perform at least two inspections each year, as either a Processing or Apheresis Collection Facility Inspector. Being qualified to perform inspections in both areas provides me an enhanced perspective of the cellular therapy product life cycle – collection, processing, storage, and administration. In the following paragraphs, I share some insights, approaches and “tricks of the trade” that I have learned along the way.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell
The most important preparation tip that I share with inspector trainees is to start the “desk” inspection early in order to allow ample time for thorough review. By planning sufficient time for review, well prior to the date of inspection, an inspector can request further information and clarifications. This ultimately allows for a more efficient inspection. I developed a personal SOP for inspection preparation titled, Preparing to Perform a FACT Inspection, which has undergone many revisions, been validated, and approved by Quality Management and continues to serve as the basis for my approach to inspections.
First, I confirm scheduling and travel arrangements with FACT office staff and the inspection team leader (I provide my cell phone number in case of emergencies). My next step is to review the application in order to understand the services provided, volume of activities, and organizational structure of the applicant program. I print the assigned inspector checklist, which contains applicant responses, and begin a comprehensive review of all documents provided in the application. Often several sections of the checklist can be completed by document review, such as label content requirements and key staff credentialing, well before departing for the applicant site. As I proceed through the checklist and review the QM Plan, SOPs and other documents; stickers with notations are placed next to Standards requiring further clarification or observation on site. In addition, I develop a written list of questions to have in hand upon arrival on the day of inspection. Preparation is not complete until the entire checklist and all documents have been reviewed. Yes indeed, I am “old-school,” and assemble a three-ring binder containing printed materials to have on hand during the inspection. It resembles a mini version of the original four-inch binders that were sent to inspectors before the accreditation portal was launched. My binder is complete with section dividers, is only one or two inches, and contains only area-specific printed materials. Once at the inspection site, I again work through the checklist and systematically remove the stickers and cross out items on my list. Ultimately, at the end of the day, what remains is a new list of potential citations and/or variances along with commendable practices.
“The best-laid plans of mice and men / Go oft awry.” Robert Burns
As inspectors, we diligently work to prepare for an efficient and well-structured inspection day. Occasionally, schedules fall apart. As such, we must exhibit flexibility and maintain composure and professionalism. Developing a detailed agenda with the inspection team and site coordinator can often avoid poor time management, yet unforeseen factors can impact the best of intentions. Amazingly, more often than not, I have arrived at a facility where no apheresis collections, product processing, or administration procedures have been scheduled for observation. That is when I quickly switch to “mock” procedure mode and work to allow sufficient time to perform a thorough observation. Being prepared prior to arrival on site with the skillset to examine both actual and “mock’” procedures puts the facility site at ease and allows the inspector to perform a complete review.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” Benjamin Franklin
After hours of preparation and a long day, inspectors will conduct an exit interview with the applicant program staff and institution leadership. I have come to approach these meetings in such a manner to avoid the unexpected and to offer positive feedback. I always make it a point to have discussed all significant potential citations, variances, and concerns with area managers and directors, if available, prior to the exit session. My standard exit session script begins by thanking the staff (by name) for their patience and hard work, no matter how well or poorly the day unfolded. I then reiterate that I have inspected the facility with the “X” Edition FACT-JACIE Standards and that the FACT Accreditation Coordinator will present my report to the FACT Accreditation Committee for review. I share my observations and potential citations and variances to the group with reference to specific examples. I consider it equally important to also describe commendable practices such as process improvement efforts, exemplary SOPs and worksheets, or praiseworthy practices or achievements. As inspectors, we cannot diminish the importance of the exit session, as it can often be what is most remembered of the inspection day’s activities by those in attendance.
It has been an honor and privilege for me to serve as a FACT Inspector. While it requires time and effort outside of my office and personal life, I am convinced that both my home BMT program and I greatly benefit from the experience. I encourage those interested to join the FACT inspectorate.