Pharmacy News

By Curtis Smith, Pharm.D., BCPS, FCCP, professor, Ferris State University, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing

This year, the Michigan Society of Health-System Pharmacists is “gearing up” for implementation of the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act (H.R. 592 and S. 314 in the 114th Congress). In February, Nancy McDonald, MSHP president-elect, encouraged everyone to review the Pharmacy Forecast 2017 from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Pharmacy Foundation.1 This document provides a glimpse into the future of the pharmacy profession. One section of the Pharmacy Forecast discusses the shift in roles, responsibilities and training for pharmacists. It is projected that pharmacists’ patient care roles will continue to expand, with almost 75 percent of the panelists deeming it likely or very likely that the vast majority of pharmacists in healthcare systems will have prescribing authority for inpatients and discharged outpatients. This will result in the continued shift of pharmacist time from distribution functions to clinical activities.

As part of this continued shift in roles, pharmacists need to consider how to develop, refine, advance and demonstrate their clinical skills. This will be vital in a healthcare environment where pharmacists have prescribing authority. To meet this challenge, pharmacy education has significantly increased its focus on clinical skills over the last 20 years, and the NAPLEX exam recently changed to be more clinically focused. However, pharmacists still need to focus on skill development after graduation and licensure. Last month Shawna Kraft, MSHP director, provided a number of excellent resources to help pharmacists in this area (find her article here). However, as pharmacy roles expand, pharmacist specialty certification will take an even greater importance.

Currently there are over 28,500 pharmacists worldwide who are board certified through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, a division of the American Pharmacists Association.2These numbers continue to increase significantly each year including a 15.3 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 and another 17 percent increase from 2015 to 2016. There are eight pharmacy specialty areas including ambulatory care, critical care, nuclear, nutrition support, oncology, pediatric, pharmacotherapy and psychiatric pharmacy. Soon, three more specialty areas will be added including infectious diseases, cardiology and geriatrics (the current certified geriatric pharmacist credential will move to BPS as a specialty certification in 2018). In Michigan, there are 606 certified pharmacy specialists (as of April 2017), including those with added qualifications in infectious diseases and cardiology (17th highest state in the nation). This is less than seven percent of all of the pharmacists in the state.

So, as we “gear up” for provider status, why is specialty certification vitally important? First, it is a method where pharmacists can demonstrate their skills and abilities in a particular specialty area. It’s important that all stakeholders, including insurance companies, healthcare organizations and other healthcare providers, are assured that our skills and knowledge meet a high standard. Specialty certification is a validated method that recognizes these required abilities. Second, the process of preparing to take the specialty exam allows clinicians to advance their skills and become better caregivers for their patients. Many pharmacists reflect and recognize, after taking a pharmacy specialty certification exam, how preparing for the exam significantly improved their skills and made them a better pharmacist. Finally, recertification occurs every seven years and requires extensive continuing education or retaking part of the recertification exam. This process assures that a pharmacist’s skills will remain at a high level long after passing the exam for the first time.

Therefore, as we gear up for pharmacist provider status, consider taking your practice to the next level by demonstrating your knowledge, skills and abilities in pharmacy practice through specialty certification. Registration for Fall 2017 testing opened on May 8.


  1. Zellmer WA, ed. Pharmacy forecast 2017: strategic planning advice for pharmacy departments in hospitals and health systems. Am J Health-Syst Pharm. 2017;74(2):27-53.
  2. American Pharmacists Association. BPS Annual Report 2015. Board of Pharmacy Specialties website. Accessed March 31, 2017.



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