BPS Opens Doors for Pharmacists

Jennifer Barrio, Associate Editor
Published Online: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The field of pharmacy is growing and changing, and the role of the pharmacist is expanding. Once considered primarily dispensers of prescriptions, pharmacists are increasingly recognized today for their ability to provide specialized, quality health care through patient education, disease state management counseling, and medication therapy management.

Many pharmacists choose to specialize their practices to meet the needs of certain populations of patients. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) is an independent agency of the American Pharmacists Association created in 1976 to certify pharmacists’ specialized knowledge and skills.

BPS currently offers specialization certificates in 6 key areas: nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, psychiatric pharmacy, and ambulatory care pharmacy. Each initial certification examination consists of 200 multiple choice questions in the specialty area. Examinations are given nationwide once per year.

There is also an increasing need for focused areas within these 6 pharmacy specialties. BPScertified pharmacists who specialize in pharmacotherapy may apply for an “Added Qualification,” which denotes an enhanced level of training and experience in 1 of 2 areas: cardiology or infectious diseases. Pharmacists interested in obtaining Added Qualifications must submit a professional portfolio to BPS for review.

Certifications issued by BPS are valid for 7 years. At the end of the certification period, pharmacists become recertified either through the successful completion of a 100-question multiple choice exam in their area of specialty or by fulfilling a specialty-specific continuing education requirement from a BPS-approved provider. After 7 years, pharmacists with Added Qualifications must resubmit their portfolios.

Specialization offers pharmacists many benefits. In many settings, employers will offer promotions and salary increases once a pharmacist obtains a BPS certificate. Some employers will even require specialized certification for advancement.

In addition to the monetary benefits, BPS certification offers pharmacists the distinction of being experts in their field. This garners respect from employers, other health care professionals, and the general public.

Additional information about certification test dates, fees, and the application process is available on the BPS Web site, www.bpsweb.org.

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