Ambulatory Care

Is BPS Certification Necessary for Ambulatory Care Practitioners

As the current Chair of the Section of Ambulatory Care Practitioners (SACP), I am incredibly excited about the programs the SACP and ASHP are involved with in regards to Board Certification in ambulatory care. Some of you may not be aware but ASHP has long been dedicated to the recognition of various pharmacy specialties, and includes it as a key objective in the new ASHP Strategic Plan. In fact, ASHP has been involved with six of the eight specialty petitions including ambulatory care, pediatrics, critical care, oncology, psychiatry, and nutrition. Ambulatory Care was first recognized as a specialty in 2009 with the first exam offered in 2011. In just two years there are 1,000 Board Certified Ambulatory Care Practitioners (BCACPs). Since this is a new specialty, many of you may question the value. So with this message, I hope to discuss the reasons why you should consider becoming board certified.

Is Board Certification Necessary?

The Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCCP) vision for pharmacy states that by 2015, pharmacists “… will be the patient care providers that healthcare systems and payers recognize as being responsible for ensuring desired medication use outcomes.”

Our mission as pharmacists is to ensure appropriate use of medications, devices, and services to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes. Achieving this vision requires growth in the number of pharmacists with the high-level knowledge, skills, and training to care for the growing population of patients who have very complex medication regimens for chronic disease.

As ambulatory care pharmacists, we develop and implement innovative patient care programs; educate and train students, residents, and colleagues to deliver innovative clinical services in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings; while simultaneously conducting practice-based research.

Which leads to the question at hand—should we, as ambulatory care pharmacists, become certified? Board certification is a way to determine if pharmacists are qualified to contribute at advanced practice levels. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) states that specialty certification benefits include peer to peer recognition; personal and financial advancement; and differentiation and affirmation of advance level knowledge and skills.

As mentioned ambulatory Care is one of the newest specialty certifications offered by BPS; and BCACPs are able to coordinate care among healthcare team members and through transitions among a variety of venues. BCACPs manage complex medication regimens; integrate care acute illnesses; and educate and engage patients in health promotion, wellness and self-management. They also serve as leaders in chronic and preventive care within the profession.

I must confess, I had previously resisted the notion that board certification was necessary as I believed the payment model would come first and incentivize our profession to seek the board certification credential. I changed my opinion as I became more engaged in service within the ambulatory care section of ASHP and with the BPS vision, petition process, and the collective efforts of key pharmacy organization stakeholders.

Words of Wisdom- “The New Practitioners”

When collecting my thoughts for this communication, I decided to seek the opinion of our new practitioners who recently received board certification as to why they elected to sit for the exam and what they believe certification means to our profession.

Here is a collection of their responses:

  • To distinguish myself as a practitioner who values providing patient-centered evidence based medicine.
  • To validate my clinical knowledge and stay up to date on evidence based medicine.
  • [BPS certification] improves a pharmacist’s leverage for high functioning clinical positions.
  • Demonstrates the practitioner has advanced training, knowledge, skills, and abilities beyond professional licensure.
  • Provide support to advance collaborative practice to unify and become recognized nationally.
  • To advance my professional career.
  • Being mentored under the guidance of board certified preceptors and faculty during professional education and training inspired me to become certified. They were pioneers in providing innovative services, valued members of the healthcare team, and known for providing excellent patient care.
  • To serve as a role model for students and residents.
  • To help move pharmacists in the direction of obtaining provider status.

In conclusion, although Board Certification may not be mandatory for all practitioners—it is highly regarded and should be strongly considered for all high-level pharmacists who aim to advance patient care. ASHP seeks to support and advance the practice of pharmacists who are medication-use specialists, care providers, and specialists in the ambulatory care settings across the continuum of healthcare settings. I hope you will consider the value this credential can provide in advancing our scope of practice and pursuit of payment reform.

Seena L. Haines, PharmD, FASHP, BCACP, BC-ADM, CDE
Professor and Associate Dean for Faculty Residency Director (PGY-1)
Lloyd L Gregory School of Pharmacy Palm Beach Atlantic University