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ASHP Members Highlight the Value of Board Certification

Oct 19, 2020
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Katie Hughes, Pharm.D., BCPPS

WHEN SNEHAL BHATT, PHARM.D., BCPS, was going through pharmacy school and residency training, he noticed that the pharmacists and mentors he looked up to most all were board certified. So when he completed his training in 2001, he pursued his board certification in pharmacotherapy to achieve expertise in pharmacy practice and emulate those who inspired him.

Professional benefits

Dr. Bhatt, a clinical pharmacist in cardiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and an ASHP member since 1999, said this distinction comes in handy on a daily basis.

“Most of my patients have a variety of other disease states and comorbidities that aren’t necessarily cardiology-related, and that’s an area where I have just as important an impact in patient care,” said Dr. Bhatt, who also is a professor of pharmacy practice at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University. “While I certainly help with recommending medications for patients’ primary cardiovascular problems, I often find myself having to help the team with non-cardiovascular medications, too. Being well-rounded as a pharmacist and well-versed in a variety of drug therapy options outside of your specialty is essential to pharmacy practice.”

Being well-versed in your field is just one of the professional benefits pharmacists can reap from becoming board-certified, said Angela Bingham, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCNSP, BCCCP, FASPEN,  an associate professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is also a clinical pharmacist in the medical/surgical intensive care units at Cooper University Hospital, in Camden, N.J.

Angela Bingham, Pharm.D., BCPS, BCNSP, BCCCP, FASPEN

She and other pharmacists enjoy the validation of their clinical knowledge and competency beyond licensing requirements, she says. There also can be financial incentives related to salary, promotions, and new practice opportunities that emerge. With a seed grant from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), Dr. Bingham and one of her residents are investigating the prevalence and value of board certification among pharmacy practice faculty at colleges and schools of pharmacy in the United States. A previous survey indicated that one of the most important benefits identified by participants was gaining personal satisfaction by accomplishing professional goals that were important to them.

Advanced practice opportunities

Dr. Bingham is board certified in three areas: pharmacotherapy, nutrition support, and critical care, and now works with ASHP on the critical care review and recertification programs. She first pursued pharmacotherapy board certification as a PGY-2 critical care pharmacy resident, then pursued certification in nutrition support and in critical care as those emerged as areas of passion and specialization for her after she completed a residency.

“It really impressed me that board certification is a gold standard for determining which pharmacists are qualified to contribute to advanced practice roles,” said Dr. Bingham, an ASHP member for 14 years. “I also was impressed by the rigorous processes BPS uses to help ensure that board certified pharmacists are trained to meet the expectations of interprofessional health care teams and saw specialization as an opportunity to improve patient outcomes. I was drawn to the complex, evolving nature of critically ill patients and the team structure of care within the ICU environment, which led me down this path.”

Improving confidence and becoming an expert in pediatric care inspired Katie Hughes, Pharm.D., BCPPS, to pursue board certification in pediatric pharmacy. Dr. Hughes had a long interest in working with children but found that she needed much more information during a pediatrics rotation in pharmacy school.

“It was overwhelming from a clinical and emotional/social perspective,” said Dr. Hughes, who now works with the pediatric ICU at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis, as well as the burn and rehabilitation units. “I realized that a lot of the kids we were seeing then weren’t the textbook kids we looked at in school. They were different sizes, had different volumes of distribution, had different clearance rates, their organs were totally different, and we didn’t have black and white guidelines to tell us what to do.”

Dr. Hughes, an ASHP member since 2012, said she did appreciate helping patients through their illnesses and watching their incredible ability to bounce back and recover. When BPS introduced the pediatrics pharmacy board certification during her PGY-2 year, she jumped on it. She attended ASHP’s board prep meeting as part of her training. Now, Dr. Hughes helps ASHP develop curricula for its board recertification.

“The medical profession has some imposter syndrome, and I don’t think that’s uncommon in pharmacy either,” she said. “You want to make sure you know what you’re doing, and sometimes you’re hesitant because you don’t have that confidence. The board certification helped me with that, and making sure I was taking the best care of patients I could.”

Certification offerings

BPS recognizes 14 pharmacy specialties, of which ASHP has available resources, including review courses, for nine currently: Ambulatory care pharmacy, critical care pharmacy, cardiology pharmacy, compounded sterile preparations pharmacy, geriatric pharmacy, infectious diseases pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pediatric pharmacy, and pharmacotherapy. Soon, ASHP and the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) will offer a review package for the transplant pharmacist exam, including an online review course and practice exam.

ASHP and ACCP also partner to provide resources for the Ambulatory Care, Cardiology, Geriatric, Infectious Diseases, and Oncology specialties.

Whether to pursue board certification always will be a personal decision, Dr. Bhatt said. There are so many specialty areas now board-certified that it allows every practitioner to find their own home.

“For anyone who really has a desire to stay as advanced in their practice, and as broad-based and up-to-date as you can, board certification is one of the best ways to do so because it’s a very structured environment, and you know you’re getting high-quality education from your peers in terms of what matters for pharmacy practice,” he said.

ASHP programs

Dr. Bhatt originally had to make his own study guides from reading textbook chapters, guidelines, and primary literature. But more recently, while pursuing recertification, he has taken advantage of ASHP’s continuing education programs. Many of ASHP’s activities offer dual recertification credit for pharmacists with more than one specialty credential.

“There are several ways I can get board certification credits through ASHP throughout the year,” he said. “It allows us to fit those activities into our schedules in a convenient fashion so we can maintain our board certification without being intrusive to our day-to-day practices or family lives.”

Board certification is “certainly a commitment that can’t be taken lightly,” added Dr. Bingham. “But it can ultimately be very professionally rewarding.”

By Karen Blum

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