I enjoy brainstorming with other pharmacists on becoming board certified.
I remember back in 1998-1999, the assistant dean of my alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Memphis, stressed how important it was to consider residency and board certification. At the time, I was 25 years old and making decisions that would impact me for life.
I decided back then to decline that path. I only saw the dollars that were before me in retail pharmacy and the student loan debt approaching 6 figures. So, I quipped, "Why would I want to work for half pay or less for a whole year?" and "Why would I want to spend money and time to become board certified when there are no immediate financial rewards?"
Hindsight is 20/20. Fast forward to a 40-something in the profession for more than 14 years experiencing all sorts of different pharmacy experiences. After trying most, I have regrets regarding my earlier decisions. I regret not doing a rotation overseas. I regret not doing a residency. I regret that I dismissed it all for more money.
I know that not everyone feels like me, and that is understandable. Perhaps I am just a different sort who realized fairly quickly that I was falling behind. Whatever the reason, I decided to pursue a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS) certification a couple of years ago. I work in a small community setting in a smaller city, and although it is nothing like Memphis in terms of clinical opportunities, such opportunities can be found with a little luck. Passing the test was probably up there with my other personal accomplishments.
Why should you become board certified?
According to the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) website, "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, but most BCPS-certified pharmacists I have spoken with did not receive a raise unless they changed jobs. While BCPS certification may have helped with landing a clinical job in the past, it might just be something to separate you from a PharmD without BCPS on any pharmacist job interview today.
If you have been out of school for more than 5 years, I bet you have already forgotten some of what you have learned. You can either depend on your local hospital's computer system to remind you of every little thing OR you can take charge of what you know and remain committed to being the best pharmacist you can be. Think of it like this: if you work in a hospital and are commanding larger salaries than new graduates with fresher knowledge, there comes a point at which you are replaceable. Remain competitive in your field, which means using continuing education to really learn something, rather than last-minute cramming to renew your state license.
A paper published in 2006 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 in both clinical and staff positions. As pharmacists move in the direction of becoming reimbursed professionals for optimizing medications, there will be a trend toward licensing agencies requiring board certification in certain scenarios. Sure, that is not the case today, but if you would have told me in 2000 that the market would be in its current shape with oversaturation and residency demand, then I would have done things very differently in 1999-2002.
The PharmD curriculum is not enough to get you in sync with other health care 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 new graduates in clinical positions without experience and expecting them to build relationships with clinicians is not the best-case scenario for building pharmacist clinical teams. Requiring board certification ensures a higher level of expertise and is moving toward becoming a requirement in many hospitals. The benefits in just preparing and studying for the test are immense, in my experience.
Last, but not least, you should become board certified to give your patients the best care possible. This was my number 1 reason. I remember the day when I sat at my desk years ago and realized I had no idea about new practice guidelines and that order entry had essentially turned me into a robot dependent on the computer. I realized that it was time to make some personal changes that would cost me both dollar and time, yet result in amazing benefits for my patients.
Most pharmacists are reluctant to pursue BCPS certification because no one wants to fail, much less fail twice. Although it is humbling to fail once, it is euphoric to pass, even the second time.
I hope to inspire more pharmacists to be their best in our profession. If you fail, realize that any amount of learning will significantly change how you practice pharmacy.