The pharmacy profession is changing, and there is a growing need for the contemporary pharmacist workforce to provide more clinical services aimed at achieving medication optimization. This workforce is diverse and includes generalist practitioners, focused practitioners, advanced generalist practitioners, and advanced focused practitioners, as elucidated in the contemporary scope of practice framework, developed by the Council on Credentialing in Pharmacy, in its 2009 resource paper: Scope of Contemporary Pharmacy Practice: Roles, Responsibilities, and Functions of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians 


At BPS, we are particularly interested in the growing trend for specialization across pharmacy practice, as evidenced by the trending demand for postgraduate residency training (roughly 6,600 applicants for about 4,400 ASHP-accredited residency positions, resulting in 4,376 total matches for both PGY1 and PGY2 positions in 2017); and rising numbers of board-certified pharmacist specialists.  


When determining eligibility for board certification as a pharmacist specialist, BPS applies approved criteria when reviewing applications for initial board certification. Depending on the specialty, these criteria recognize different pathways (e.g., completion of a PGY2 specialty residency, completion of a PGY1 residency plus 1-2 years of specialized practice experience, or 3-4 years of post-licensure, specialized practice experience). This is important given the relatively limited access to postgraduate residency training opportunities (e.g., limited number of positions and lack of residencies in certain specialized areas of practice, such as Nuclear Pharmacy), and is why demonstration of post-licensure practice experience, including 50% or more time spent practicing within domains of the specialty certification content outline, remains an important pathway to board-eligibility 


As a certifying body with nationally accredited certification programs, BPS is obligated to publicly report board certification examination passing rates following each testing cycle (e.g., spring and fall cycles each calendar year). These passing rates are for the aggregate cohort in each specialty, which includes candidates deemed board-eligible based on all recognized pathways. 


To gain a deeper understanding of these rates, in 2019 we conducted a research project to formally analyze data from U.S. candidatewho sat for initial board certification examinations between 2015 – 2018. Our goal was to explore the association between eligibility pathways and examination pass rates. Interestingly, this analysis revealed a significant difference in passing rate among different eligibility cohorts across six of the BPS recognized specialties: Ambulatory Care, Critical Care Pharmacy, Oncology Pharmacy, Pediatric Pharmacy, Pharmacotherapy, and Psychiatric PharmacyAcross each of these certificationspassing rates were significantly higher for candidates who had previously completed an ASHP-accredited residency program compared to 3-4 years of post-licensure practice experience alone. 


This research has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA), and the abstract may be found here. Moving forward, it is BPS’ mission to continue to expand this knowledge base and collaborate with stakeholders across the profession – in order to optimize the value and impact of BPS board certification.