Should I Take the BCPS Exam After a 20-Year Pharmacy Career?


Preparing to take the BCPS exam is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Several months ago, a coworker and I considered taking the Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialty (BCPS) exam.

We graduated from pharmacy school in the late ‘90s with BS Pharmacy degrees. Over the years, we have worked in many disciplines, gotten married, raised (and continue to raise) children, became highly involved in our communities, and now hold full-time jobs. We are settled, happy, and accomplished in our own right. So, why would we consider taking the BCPS exam at this point?

As pharmacists, we are required to have 30 hours of continuing education (CE) to renew our pharmacy license, but is that really enough of an “update” to stay current with the changes in pharmacy? The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. It all depends on how you use it.

My coworker and I are not looking to become primary clinical pharmacists, nor are we seeking to become experts in a certain area. However, a solid working knowledge of disease states and their therapies and current guidelines never hurt anybody. So, we took the leap, spent the $600 to $850 on study material, and started our journey to seeing what this BCPS business was all about.

We decided to do this together because, with our busy lifestyles and semi-nonchalant approach to this endeavor, we needed an accountability partner. We created a schedule of topics to study each week and decided to meet once a month to review and discuss.

That worked well for the first 2 months, and then real life set in. I think 1 of the big challenges for us is that taking the exam is not a make-or-break decision for our career. Or is it?

As we study certain topics, we realize that everything that we do on a daily basis as a pharmacists is explained in this material, including why patients are on certain large volume fluids, why some fluids contain sodium bicarbonate and others don’t, why a baby received synagis and another didn’t, and why patients are on protonix drips and sandostatin drips at the same time.

While we're working, we instant message each other whenever we come across an order where the medications align with a topic we have been studying. That helps us put the pieces of the puzzle together so that we can see the whole picture.

We decided to make flash cards with information that we felt was pertinent to remember, rather than trying to read and remember all of the chapters from the study material, because who has time for that? The flash card idea was a hit, but we have both tended to fall behind on that, too. We also purchased the audio version of the BCPS lectures so that we can at least listen to them while we are commuting, making dinner, and cleaning the house. I would say that this has been the most successful tool for us.

There are several television shows that I love to watch weekly, but I “try” to replace 1 or 2 hours of TV with a lecture topic here and there. And, when I sit my 7 year old down to do his homework, he knows that mommy has to do her homework, too. We carve out an hour or so each night to do this.

Am I consistent? No. Do I do the best I can? Yes, and that is all I can ask for at this point. I don't beat myself up about it.

We have nearly 4 months to go before the testing dates to take the exam, and surprisingly, we have not decided if we are going to sit for it or not. It's not because we feel we are not ready, but because, whether we take it or not, pass or not, the information that we have gathered from just taking the time to improve our knowledge base is an accomplishment in itself for ourselves and the patient.

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