by Douglas Tam, PharmD, BCPS
Council Member, BPS Infectious Diseases Pharmacy Specialty Council
Clinical staff operating room pharmacist, UF Health Shands Hospital
As a new practitioner fresh out of postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) residency in 2020, one of my professional goals included becoming a BPS Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS). Soon after I started my role as a clinical staff pharmacist at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, I studied for the exam and became certified by the end of 2020. Aside from the validation that I had finally become a board-certified practitioner, I also knew the certification would open doors to future career opportunities.
Conveniently, that door opened within six months of obtaining my certification. I transitioned into my current role as an operating room (OR) pharmacist and while the role itself is niche, my patients have a wide range of comorbidities – precisely why board certification in pharmacotherapy has been advantageous. Since pharmacotherapy itself is broad, my familiarity with numerous disease states helps me understand patient needs as they transition from the emergency department, inpatient units, or intensive care units to the perioperative space.
You may have heard that the emergency department is the “Wild West” when it comes to inpatient medication management, but I would argue that the OR is just as wild! In the OR, many procedures utilize medications in emerging ways that have only recently been published or are off-label uses. My efforts in studying for the BPS certification exam and completing continuing education (CE) credits to maintain my certification keep me sharp on literature evaluation. This translates to my day-to-day work, too: I am able to confidently assess the safety and appropriateness of medications used intraoperatively in ways we may not have learned in pharmacy school. For example, I certainly don’t recall ever learning in class about doxycycline powders mixed with albumin to create a foam for the treatment of aneurysmal bone cysts!
One of the additional benefits of board certification is the accountability to lifelong learning. It has been said that “learning never ends,” and it is downright true. With so many advances in healthcare and pharmaceuticals today, it could be easy to become complacent and work on what is comfortable. Aside from learning through pharmacotherapy CE modules, board certification has even opened doors to learning more at work.
During a time when my institution was searching for a new neurocritical care pharmacy specialist, my residency background and board certification provided institutional leadership with confidence in my abilities to provide cross-coverage for the unit during the search and hiring process.
While board certification may mean something a bit different to each pharmacist, it has certainly made an impact on my personal and professional development. To my fellow new practitioners: I highly recommend obtaining your certification as soon as you are able!