Pharmacy Times
Volume 0

As professionals, pharmacists have a moral/ethical obligationto remain professionally competent because patientstrust them to do what is right. We try to measure professionalcompetence to enter the practice of pharmacy witha Board of Pharmacy examination. In each state, passage ofthat examination allows one to become licensed to practicepharmacy in that state and also allows reciprocating one'slicense to most other states. Although there have been periodicdiscussions about requiring pharmacists to demonstratecompetence to continue to practice, this has notoccurred. Instead, most states require pharmacists toreceive continuing education (CE) each year as a surrogatemeasure of maintaining competence. While other professionsmay require many more hours, pharmacy averagesaround 15 hours per year of CE. Many are beginning toquestion whether this is adequate in today's rapidly changingpractice environment. Others question whether CEadequately meets the life-long learning or practice behaviorneeds of pharmacists. Therefore, a few states have tried todefine what type of CE a pharmacist should receive, but nostate looks at whether the CE taken is relevant to that pharmacist'spractice.

Recently, pharmacy educators and those concernedabout credentialing in pharmacy have started talking aboutcontinuing professional development (CPD) as a more effectivetool to measure whether an individual pharmacist isqualified to practice. Michael Rouse has summarized theprinciples of CPD as follows (JAPhA. 2004;44:517-520):

  • CPD is a systematic, ongoing cyclical process of self-directedlearning.
  • It includes everything practitioners learn that enablesthem to be more effective as professionals; that is, both traditionalCE and other forms of professional development.
  • CPD includes the entire scope of the practitioner's practice,and it may include activities both within and outsidethe usual work setting.
  • CPD is a partnership between the practitioner and hisorganization, meeting the needs of both.
  • Practitioners are responsible for their own professionaldevelopment. Organizations have a responsibility tohelp practitioners meet development needs that relateto performance in their current jobs.

When, or even if, this approach will happen is unknown.Those pharmacists who strive for competence and recognizesuch moral/ethical obligations to society, however, maywant to explore CPD voluntarily.

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