I enjoy brainstorming with other pharmacists and asking them their opinions on becoming board certified. I remember back in 1998-1999, the assistant dean of my alma mater, University of Tennessee at Memphis stressed how important it was for us to consider residency and board certification. At the time, I was a 25-26 year old making decisions that would impact me for life. You see, I decided back then to decline that path. I only saw the dollars that were before me and the student loan debt piling up. I quipped, "Why would I want to work for half-pay or less for a whole year?" Why? Hindsight is 20/20. Fast forward to a 40 year-old in the profession for over 14 years experiencing all sorts of different experiences, and after trying most, I have a couple of regrets as far as my tenure in pharmacy school. I regret not doing a rotation overseas. I regret not doing an residency. I regret that I dismissed more learning inferior to money.
I know not everyone feels like me, and that is understandable. Perhaps I am just a different sort who becomes stir-crazy when bored. Whatever the reason, I decided to pursue BCPS last year. I missed it barely the first time and immediately jumped back up and started studying again. I work in a small community setting in a smaller city and though it is nothing like Memphis was in terms of clinical opportunities, these opportunities can be found with a little thought. Passing the test was probably up there with other accomplishments in life - like the time I finished my first marathon (26.2 mile run) in 2002. Victory!
Why should you become board certified?
- BPS website quotes: "From patient to provider, the value of the BPS-certified practitioner registers throughout the health care continuum. For pharmacy professionals, documentation of specialized experience and skills yields the additional benefits of personal satisfaction, financial rewards and career advancement." I definitely agree with most of this though most I have talked with did not receive a raise unless they changed jobs. In the past where BCPS maybe helped with landing a clinical job, today it may be the thing to separate you from a PharmD without BCPS.
- If you have been out of school for over four to five years, you can be sure you have already forgotten some of what you have learned and have not learned new material being presented to new graduates. You can depend on your local hospitals' computer system to remind you of every little thing (trusting those that program such systems) OR you can take charge of what you know and remain committed to being the best you can be. Think of it like this, if you work in a hospital and you are commanding larger salaries than new graduates with fresher knowledge, there comes a point where you are replaceable. Be your best to remain competitive in your field. This means utilizing continuing education to really learn something and not last-minute cramming to renew your state license. (Guilty, by the way).
- A paper wrote in 2006 (seven years ago) states that "Future Clinical Pharmacy Practitioners Should Be Board-Certified Specialists." In the past clinical pharmacists have not made board certification a priority, but this is changing rapidly with not only clinical positions but in staff positions. Clinical faculty and preceptors MUST be board certified, I believe. As pharmacists move toward the direction of becoming reimbursed professionals for optimizing medications, there will be a trend toward licensing agencies requiring board certification in certain scenarios. Sure, it is not TODAY, but if you would have asked me in 2000 if I thought the market would be in the shape it is with oversaturation, I would have done things VERY differently in 1999-2002. Direct patient care IS coming.
- The PharmD curriculum is not enough to be able to interact in sync with other healthcare professionals. Experience in dealing with physicians and their assistance along with board certification will take you to the next level in recommending appropriate treatment. Placing a new graduate in a clinical position without experience and expecting them to build relationships with clinicians is not the best case scenario for the patient. Requiring a board certification ensures a higher level of expertise and should be a requirement of all hospitals (in my opinion). I know, I know. Not something anyone wants to enforce, but wow! The benefits in just preparing and studying for the test are immense.
- Last, but not least, you should become board certified to give your patients the best care possible. This was my number one reason. I remember the day I sat at my desk years ago and realized I had no idea about new guidelines (and even some not-so-new) and that centralized order entry had essentially turned me into a robot at a computer verifying at will, I realized it was time to make some personal changes that would cost me both dollar and more importantly time but result in amazing benefits for my patients. BCPS.
I hope that you will consider these reasons. For the most part most people are reluctant because no one wants to fail, much less fail twice. Yes, it is humbling to fail once, but it is euphoric to pass (even the second time). Especially for someone like me, I prove you can teach an old dog new tricks. I hope to inspire more of you to seek to be your best in our profession, stop worrying about your coworkers and if you fail, and realize that any amount of learning that happens will significantly change how you practice pharmacy.
In the future, I am thinking about tackling another certification. I hope you will, too!