In January of 1973, a Task Force on Specialties in Pharmacy was created by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) to respond to changes occurring in health care and the pharmacy profession. Of particular interest was the issue of specialization in pharmacy practice.
Following the recommendations of the Task Force, the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) was organized in 1976 as an autonomous division of the APhA. Today BPS is the premier post-licensure certification that operates across the pharmacy profession to provide specialty certification of pharmacists. Through the rigorous examination standards mandated by BPS, the BPS Board Certified Pharmacist is uniquely trained and educated to meet the continually expanding expectations of other healthcare team members and specialized needs of the patients they care for.
The purpose of the BPS certification programs is to grant recognition of appropriate pharmacy practice specialties based on criteria established by BPS; establish standards for certification and recertification of pharmacists in recognized pharmacy practice specialties; grant qualified pharmacists certification and recertification in recognized pharmacy practice specialties; serve as a coordinating agency and informational clearinghouse for organizations and pharmacists in recognized pharmacy practice specialties; and enhance public/consumer protection by developing effective certification programs for specialty practices in pharmacy.
Certification examinations, consisting of 100 multiple-choice questions, are administered in the spring and fall annually at designated sites throughout the U.S. and other countries. To ensure that knowledge and skills are maintained at the specialty level, BPS board certified pharmacists must recertify every seven years. BPS continually evaluates and updates its certification and recertification processes. Approximately every five years, a new role delineation study is conducted for each specialty, with examinations modified accordingly.
By documenting practitioners’ readiness for expanding roles in the 21st century, BPS recognizes, sets standards for, and provides certification in specific clinical specialties. Most importantly, it is above partisan interests and establishes independent, objective standards that are applied in a psychometrically sound, legally defensible process.
An essential and exceptional element of the BPS certification process is its dependence on an expanded peer group for both specialty recognition and exam content. Once a specialty area has been recognized, a Specialty Council of content experts works with the BPS and its highly qualified psychometric consultants to develop a bank of test items. Each Specialty Council is composed of six pharmacists practicing in the specialty area along with three outside pharmacists. In addition, BPS routinely solicits questions from practitioners working in the field, ensuring a democratic examination with real-life relevance.
The success of any healthcare team depends on the knowledge and experience of each of its members, which is why specialization has become increasingly important in all aspects of medical practice. In pharmacy, BPS board certification is considered the gold standard when it comes to determining which pharmacists are qualified to contribute at advanced practice levels.