For many years the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) had five recognized specialties (Nuclear Pharmacy — 1978, Nutrition Support — 1988, Pharmacotherapy — 1988, Psychiatric Pharmacy — 1992, and Oncology — 1996). In 2011 Ambulatory Care Pharmacy was recognized, beginning an acceleration of exploring and recognizing new specialties. This past Spring the BPS Board of Directors issued a call for petition to recognize both Cardiology and Infectious Diseases as specialties and also approved role delineation studies in Sterile Compounding, Solid Organ Transplantation and Emergency Medicine. Later this month BPS will administer the first certification exams in Pediatric and Critical Care Pharmacy. These efforts coupled with previous exploratory work done by BPS in Pain and Palliative Care represent eight new BPS specialties either approved or in the pipeline since the first Ambulatory Care examination was administered just four years ago. Today with eight specialties recognized, six in various stages of development and over 20,000 Board Certified Pharmacists, there has certainly been significant growth in pharmacist board certification.
From my perspective, this growth did not begin in 2011, but represents a tipping point for board certification that parallels the evolving roles pharmacists are assuming in patient care. This professional evolution has occurred over several decades because of the hard work of many individuals and organizations to help pharmacists begin to realize their true patient care potential. Events such as adopting the Pharm.D. as our entry level degree, the creation of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, the growth in residency training, and the thought-provoking work of Hepler and Strand to define Pharmaceutical Care are examples that help pharmacists realize new patient care roles. Trying to assess the impact of any one of these actions can lead to a number of opinions as well as plenty of scholarly and historical debates. However, I strongly believe that it is the collective force of these type of efforts that creates a mosaic which has changed how pharmacy is viewed and how we practice.
Activities such as the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC) and the significant work towards pharmacist provider status, including early success at the state level, are clearly contemporary drivers of change within the profession. As new pharmacist opportunities arise, the demonstration of knowledge, skills, and attitudes through BPS certification will facilitate, not hinder, the patient care roles of pharmacists because it is a consistent, measureable, and scalable process. As the delivery of health care becomes increasingly sophisticated and complex, health care providers and the systems they work in become more accountable for the quality of care they deliver. Board certification of pharmacists provides stakeholders with a standardized method to feel confident in the knowledge and skills of the pharmacists who possess this credential. BPS envisions new specialties as being driven by a combination of forces both within and outside of the profession and we are committed to staying close to these forces through continued dialogue within the profession of pharmacy and the broader health care system.
I referenced several key events above but I did not write this blog post to create a “top ten” list of pharmacy events — I’ll leave that to others. However, I did want to share my thoughts on the growth of BPS as part of our professional evolution. While there are still many challenges and obstacles, I remain very optimistic and believe that our profession’s future is bright. I know as the profession evolves, BPS will manage board certification in a way that accommodates and encourages its evolutionary growth along with that of the profession, through flexibility and efficiency for stakeholders while remaining steadfast to the rigor and quality of the BPS process and the accreditation standards established by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Most importantly, the rigorous standards of board certification in pharmacy are meant to improve the quality of care individual patients receive, to promote positive treatment outcomes, and ultimately to improve the patient’s quality of life. Pharmacist board certification is a responsible, progressive initiative from the profession to ensure the best possible patient care. BPS is committed to serving the public interest by maintaining and evolving a pharmacist certification process to help ensure optimal medication outcomes for all patients who receive services. BPS is proud to help support pharmacy’s professional evolution and be a part of this exciting future.
William Ellis, RPh, MS
Board of Pharmacy Specialties