The “What I Wish I Knew” series of articles is a service of CPNP’s Resident and New Practitioner Committee. Articles are intended to provide advice from experts for students, residents, and new practitioners. Articles are not intended to provide in-depth disease state or pharmacotherapy information nor replace any peer-reviewed educational materials. We hope you benefit from this “field guide” discussing approaches to unique problems and situations.

Jerry McKee is a psychiatric pharmacy specialist with over 30 years in public mental health systems in inpatient psychiatry and residential developmental disabilities, academia, and correctional mental health services. Jerry became Board Certified in Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacy in 1999, having received his undergraduate and graduate pharmacy training at UNC, and currently serves as a psychiatric clinical pharmacy specialist with Mission Health in Asheville, NC. He serves as an active member of many professional organizations, including the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, past president of the College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP) and current Foundation Board member, past member and chair of the Board of Pharmacy Specialties Psychiatric Specialist Council, and current member of the Board of Pharmacy Specialties Executive Board of Directors representing psychiatric pharmacy. Jerry is a certified adult Mental Health First Aid instructor and is a staunch advocate for reducing stigma associated with persons who have a mental illness.

What are the benefits of BCPP (what can the certification do for me)?

It has long been my belief that being recognized as a BPS board certified specialist pharmacist brings instant credibility and professional recognition among clinical colleagues and peers. Physicians in particular can relate to board certification, as this is a standard process in medicine. In addition, the keen sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment that becoming BPS boarded has brought to me has made the pursuit and maintenance of BPS certification a step that has brought tremendous and immeasurable value to my career as a psychiatric pharmacist.

BPS board certification is considered the gold standard when it comes to determining a pharmacist’s qualifications and capabilities within a specialty area. Documentation of specialized experience and skills yields the additional benefits of personal satisfaction, financial rewards and career advancement. For new practitioners, additional benefits may include boost in confidence and increase in marketability when applying for jobs.

For pharmacists who earn BPS certification, the career opportunities will vary by employer. Tangible value is provided by some employers, including some government agencies, where a salary increase is given to employees who become board certified. There may also be an employee program to assist in underwriting board preparation and recertification materials costs. Be sure to inquire of your employer, and be prepared to discuss why BPS board certification is important for your employer and the patients served.

In the area of (my) unanticipated positive consequences, I found that by preparing for the exam, there was an opportunity to increase my specialized knowledge in a practice area that I did not typically see patients. Similarly, in the recertification process, the same opportunity presents.

The success of any healthcare team depends on the knowledge and experience of each of its members, which is why specialization has become increasingly important to all aspects of medical practice. Board certification is a way that pharmacists can objectively demonstrate that they have the knowledge and experience for complex medication management. There are some healthcare organizations, academic centers, or licensing boards that require board certification in order to maintain advanced clinical practice status. This may be becoming increasingly required as pharmacists become more involved in direct patient care activities as prescribing providers, as a benchmark of established clinical competency. As complex health care issues continue to demand a multidisciplinary approach, physicians, payers, and patients increasingly will recognize and expect the critical role of the specialty certified pharmacist in optimizing drug therapy.

I passed the BCPP certification test, now what? 

Celebrate your success! Make it a point to notify your supervisor, your team members, and professional colleagues. Update your CV, your social media profiles, and business cards. Have your “elevator speech” prepared when others ask you “What is pharmacist board certification and why is it important?” In pharmacy, BPS specialty certification is the pharmacist’s path to advancement in 21st century medicine. As the complexities of patient care multiply, so will the need for new skills, as well as the need to demonstrate ongoing competency with existing skills. Those pharmacists who successfully expand their scope of practice will move up the continuum from traditional prescription providers to managers of highly complex medication therapy. Board certification is one key factor in demonstrating ongoing competency in a specialty practice area, as well as your commitment to excellence in patient care. Use your BPS certification as part of marketing yourself. Wear it proudly… you earned it!

Re-test vs. recertification: What are the pros and cons of each?

A direct answer to “recert by CE or via exam?” depends entirely upon who is responding! I have always recertified by CE to avoid the 3 a.m. worries known as test anxiety. There are, however, many who choose to recertify via retest. Below is a bit more information on each recertification pathway.

BPS does require all board-certified specialists to re-certify every seven years. For those recertifying via exam, there are 100 multiple-choice questions from the current year’s Specialty Certification Examination on each recertification test. A recertification examination does not attempt to test all of a candidate’s knowledge in the specialized practice area. The examination samples the knowledge and skills required to perform the tasks in each of the major areas of responsibility of the specialty as defined through a role delineation study. Mastery of the knowledge and skills involved in this defined scope of specialized practice is necessary for board certification, regardless of the particular activities in which an applicant is involved. It is worth noting that there are potential cost differences in recertification via CE versus examination, with the recert exam being a one-time fee, compared to the added cost of each successive CE program over the 7 year window.

Recertification via CE requirements vary by specialty in terms of the approved recertification CE provided, but typically involve obtaining 100 hours of approved CE content over a 7 year recertification period. Note also that there are limitations on the number of hours of recertification CE that may be obtained towards recertification each year. Specific information may be found online

What are tips/resources for making the recertification process easy?

A few lessons learned here… Stay on top of the CE if recertifying via this mechanism. Ongoing continuing professional education is a critical aspect of being a competent pharmacy professional, but becomes even more important with those who are board certified. Lastly, whether recertifying via CE or by exam, the 7 year window passes quickly, so have a definitive plan for your pathway to recertification.