The Value of Pursuing BCOP Certification Right After PGY2 Residency Completion


Expert explains how delaying BCOP certification too long after a PGY2 residency can cause a “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” problem.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Angela Wood, BCOP, BCPS, CSP, patient advisory panel subcommittee chair at the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association (HOPA) and clinical pharmacist - oncology at Trellis Rx, on considerations related to the timing for BCOP certification following residency program completion.

Question: What is your background in the field of hematology/oncology pharmacy?

Angela Wood: I started working in oncology shortly after doing my PGY1 acute care residency. I staffed in a central part of a hospital and did chemo product checks for our patients. From there, I transitioned into decentralized on an inpatient oncology floor and managing our inpatient oncology patients getting chemo there. I've also worked on the outpatient infusion side; I did that for several years. And over the last few years, I've been working on the oral anti-cancer agents in the specialty pharmacy field. So I've worked in a variety of different roles for cancer patients and been involved and have really enjoyed it all the way through.

Question: Could you explain why certification after residency program completion may be beneficial for professionals in the field?

Angela Wood: Getting the BCOP certification right after completing a PGY2 residency is the perfect timing to do it. You do 1 year of really in depth and a wide range of disease states and you kind a whole variety of drugs, chemo drugs, and types of patients. So, once you do start working, you kind of do specialize a little bit more, so you might not see the bone marrow transplant patients as often, or you might not see the inpatient or the outpatient, depending on what role you take. So right after residency I feel is the best time, and that's what I always tell my students and my residents to really pursue that as soon as possible because you've just done this great education, and then you can apply it and get that certification to help you go forward.

Question: Why might some pharmacists decide to hold off on certification after residency program completion?

Angela Wood: I think some pharmacists might delay doing the BCOP certification because it's intimidating; it's a lot to study for a hard test. Life gets in the way after you've done a residency—I know a lot of residents will have big life changes, moves, and weddings and things like that to catch up on. But I do recommend that they prioritize it because it is such good timing to do right after. So just finding those little times to pursue studying and making sure that you're progressing to take the exam, it's really important for career growth, and it is good timing. So I know there's reasons to delay it, and certainly that does come up. But I do think it should be kind of on the forefront and a priority for PGY2 graduates.

Question: What may be the impact of a delay in obtaining certification after residency program completion?

Angela Wood: So to delay doing certification—everyone's going to be a little different, but I think just having that exposure so recently to all the different types of disease states, various modalities that chemo is given, and oncology patients—how we see them in a variety of different settings. I think also if you don't use it, you might lose it. So it's probably best to be done right after completing a PGY2; it gives you a little bit more of an edge to do a better job on the exam and pass it, potentially making it a little easier.

Question: What are some ways to make keeping up to date with certification a bit easier for professionals in the field?

Angela Wood: So doing the BCOP, you have to do 100 credits throughout 7 years to apply for recertification. And a lot of that is done through continuing education. Given that 7 years, it's a fair amount of credits that you have to split up through every year, so I think I know myself and others that I've talked to kind of setting a deadline or a goal to make sure you're doing it every year, that fulfills not only the credit aspect and keeping that certification, but it keeps your skills up to date and fresh.

Oncology is changing constantly, so the topics change, and you might learn about something in a CE that then becomes applicable very quickly or has already become applicable in your practice. So for example, as we move into precision oncology and the mutations and doing next generation sequencing, I'm seeing more and more CEs and explanations for that, and I've been able to apply that directly to my practice. So getting in the habit of doing it routinely and making sure you're meeting those deadlines makes the credits easier to reach those at the end of the 7 years, as well as it keeps your skills fresh and you're providing really good patient care.

Question: What are some benefits of membership with an accredited association regarding obtaining and maintaining certification?

Angela Wood: There's a lot of benefits when you're a member of an association that provides these continuing education services. There's an obvious financial benefit as you do get pricing that's a little bit better if you are a member, but I think just also being involved, like getting those reminder emails in the different modules that get released at certain times is kind of a good reminder to keep up with the continuing education, and then the different options that are available for self-study or attending the annual meeting is always really great.

So I think not only being a part of it for the BCOP certification, but as a HOPA member, I'm also really thankful for the pharmacist message boards. As difficult situations come up, I use that tool quite a bit. So just the variety of services that get offered from these organizations is really wonderful and helpful in my day to day.

Question: Do you have any advice for students and residents as they obtain and maintain certification?

Angela Wood: I like to tell students and residents that are interested in oncology that certification is really important. It helps guide them to learning the vast variety of things that we need to know. It's important to do this to provide good patient care, and it's really applicable—every day we use it. So it's important to not only strive for this certification for that extra bar of being a subject matter expert in oncology pharmacy, but then to get in the habit of relearning and continuing to learn that everything's changing, and we've got to change with it and to provide good patient care. That's the bottom line. So that's why I think it's ultimately really important.

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