With the rapidly changing scope of our pharmacy practice, it is becoming increasingly important that pharmacists progress with the times. Pharmacists are finding it incredibly beneficial to have a specialized skill set beyond that which is provided through pharmacy school. While pharmacists are fully equipped to handle the current challenges of the profession, they are finding it easier to market themselves as vital clinicians in the health care system if they have a certification in a particular area. If third parties and patients recognized pharmacists as being able to provide a unique service to them in managing their disease state, they will be more willing to pay for our cognitive skills. This is the future of our profession and it will be up to each individual pharmacist to decide how they will find their own niche. There are a variety of advanced pharmacy study programs available which offer certificates or certifications.
Advanced Certificates for Pharmacists
The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) was organized in 1976 as an independent certification agency of APhA.
BPS has four primary responsibilities:
Identifies and recognizes critical specialty practice areas;
- Sets standards for the certification and recertification of pharmacy specialists;
- Objectively evaluates individuals seeking certification and recertification; and
- Serves as information resource and coordinating agency for pharmacy specialties.
The overriding concern of BPS is to ensure that the public receives the level of pharmacy services that will improve a patient's quality of life. Toward this goal, the Board has recognized six specialty practice areas.
Ambulatory care pharmacy practice is the provision of integrated, accessible health care services by pharmacists who are accountable for addressing medication needs, developing sustained partnerships with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community. This is accomplished through direct patient care and medication management for ambulatory patients, long-term relationships, coordination of care, patient advocacy, wellness and health promotion, triage and referral, and patient education and self-management. The ambulatory care pharmacists may work in both an institutional and community-based clinic involved in direct care of a diverse patient population. The exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
Critical care pharmacy practice specializes in the delivery of patient care services by pharmacists, as integral members of interprofessional teams, working to ensure the safe and effective use of medications in critically ill patients. The practice requires informed, rapid assessment of clinical data for patients whose pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic parameters differ substantially from the non-critically ill patient. Pharmacists in this practice are required to review, analyze, and frequently reassess multifaceted clinical and technological information to make reasoned decisions for highly dynamic patients with life-threatening conditions and complex medication regimens.
A nuclear pharmacist specializes in procurement, compounding, quality assurance, dispensing, distribution, and development of radiopharmaceuticals. In addition, a nuclear pharmacist also monitors patient outcomes and provides information and consultation regarding health and safety issues. This exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
The nutrition support pharmacist has a responsibility for promoting maintenance and restoration of optimal nutritional status and designing/modifying treatment according to the needs of the patient. They have the responsibility for direct patient care and often function as a member of a multidisciplinary nutrition support team. This exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
The oncology pharmacist promotes optimal care of patients with various malignant diseases and their complications. These specialists are closely involved in: recognition, management, and prevention of unique morbidities associated with cancer and cancer treatment. This exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
The pharmacotherapy pharmacist is responsible for direct patient care and often functions as a member of a multidisciplinary team. They may conduct clinical research and are frequently a primary source of drug information for other health care professionals. This exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
A psychiatric pharmacist usually works as part of a multidisciplinary treatment team and is responsible for optimizing drug treatment and patient care by conducting patient assessments, recommending appropriate treatment plans, monitoring patient response, and recognizing drug induced problems. This exam must be taken at one of the designated sites and can be found on the BPS website.
The Geriatric Pharmacist specializes in medication therapy management for the elderly population. The Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy (CCGP), an independent credentialing organization, was founded by the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. It administers the CGP program and oversees all aspects of program operations, exam administration, and issuance of the credentials. The certification examination consists of 150 multiple choice questions. The test administration takes three hours. The examination is administered by Computer-Based Testing at more than 150 testing locations throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.
A pain educator is a healthcare professional who provides education about pain assessment, evaluation, and management through “curbside consults” within a clinical practice or via formal presentations and direct contact with other healthcare professionals and/or patients. The exam is administered at more than 200 Testing Centers located throughout the United States and Canada.
Diabetes education is performed by health care professionals who have the appropriate credentials and experience consistent with the particular profession’s scope of practice. This test must be taken at a designated testing facility which can be accessed at the NCBDE website.
Pharmacists must contact professional organizations such as the American Lung Association, American Association of Respiratory Care, Association of Asthma Educators, National Respiratory Training Center American Pharmacists Association, American Society of Health-System pharmacists, and other related organizations for information regarding courses which are optional in preparing to take the exam. The NAECB exam is a voluntary testing program used to assess qualified health professionals knowledge in asthma education. It is an evaluative process that demonstrates that rigorous education and experience requirements have been met. This exam is administered via computer at one of the designated testing facilities available on the NAECB website.
This is a self taught course on anticoagulation therapy and monitoring. Pharmacists can obtain a handbook to help them prepare from the CACP. The pharmacist must then document 36 patient clinical encounters for the practical part of the exam which will be reviewed before getting permission to sit for the certification exam. The exam must be taken at one of the designated facilities available at the CACP website.
American Pharmacists Advanced Certificates
The American Pharmacists Association offers other advanced certificates to pharmacists as well. For more information on these certificates please click here.
Advanced Certificates Available for Pharmacies
Compounding pharmacists provide customized medications when all conventional options will not work. With an estimated 30 to 40 million prescriptions compounded each year, the pharmacy profession saw a need for an enhanced, profession-wide system of standards, by which each compounding pharmacy can test its quality processes. PCAB Accreditation gives patients and prescribers a way to select a pharmacy that meets high quality standards. Accreditation is performed after an in-pharmacy survey arranged appointment.
Tobacco Treatment Specialist Information
This certificate is maintained by ATTUD. If you are interested in learning more about this certificate and where you can complete the training click here.
Point of Care Testing
Designed for community pharmacy, academia and pharmacy association staff, the Community Pharmacy-Based Point-of-Care Testing certificate program trains participants to administer a variety of point-of-care tests, as well as health and physical assessments. Specifically, the accredited certificate program includes 20 hours of Continuing Pharmacy Education (CPE) credit, for those who successfully complete course requirements and assessments, including 12 hours of home study and eight hours of live training about disease states, physical assessments, point-of-care tests, collaborative practice models and business models. PPA is offering a point of care testing program at its Annual Conference in October to register click here.
The Academy’s HIV Pharmacist™ (AAHIVP) certification program was designed for and is offered only to clinically experienced pharmacists who: a.) specialize in some area of HIV care, -and- b.) have at least some direct clinical activity on a regular basis. This clinical “experience” requirement may be satisfied by a wide variety of activities, ranging from full-time clinical practice roles, to providers who work in administrative roles but spend one or more days per month in a direct clinical care environment, on a regular basis. Recertifying AAHIVE-credentialed pharmacists who participated in the 3-year pilot testing rollout are also now required to have at least this minimal level of clinical care activity to earn the “AAHIVP” designation.