Pharmacy May Benefit from Continuous Professional Development

Author: Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief

As pharmacists, we have an obligation to society to demonstrate our continuing professional competence. Traditionally, license renewal has been based on a requirement for continuing education (CE). Even though CE material may be well-prepared and useful, simply accumulating CE credits does not always ensure that we continue to develop personal competence in our chosen area.

One alternative is continuous professional development (CPD), an approach that has already been adopted in several other countries and is being explored here. This approach requires us to analyze our own needs, then develop and implement our own plan for addressing them. We evaluate our progress toward those goals and document the whole process.

One appeal of this approach is that it acknowledges the specialized paths many of us take in our careers, with a deeper, narrower focus on specific topics. With CPD, we take responsibility for identifying the skills we need to work on and how to improve them in order to achieve better outcomes. CPD methods typically include CE as well as independent research aimed at solving problems in specific point-of-care situations.

This is one reason that CPD may hold more appeal than other options, such as a continuing requirement to regularly take a NAPLEX-like examination. It raises the prospect of investing significant time preparing for an examination that does not test or help improve the skills we need every day.

Pharmacy organizations in 5 states are running CPD pilot programs that may help determine the value of this approach and establish a framework for implementing it.

Other ways to test and demonstrate deeper or more specialized knowledge could include examinations focused on specialty areas. Given the possibility that the current approach will change, however, it is time to evaluate whether CPD is an appropriate tool for pharmacy.

October is American Pharmacists Month, a perfect time to reflect on the many great strides that have been made in the field of pharmacy and the positive effects that pharmacists have on their patients. An excellent example is the Asheville Project, which has become a nationwide model of how pharmacists can change the lives of their patients for the better. Please see our special supplemental publication on the status of "Asheville Today," and see how pharmacists are working to help their patients live healthier lives.