Thankful Thanksgiving Thursday: PharmD + BCOP = RX!

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I love Thanksgiving- see my post from last year for why I love it! This year’s Thanksgiving post will be focused on my profession and a new certification I achieved that I am so thankful for (BCOP)! Yes, of course I am thankful for health, family, friends etc., but everyone always talks about that- it is a given. This year- I wanted to be thankful for one of the best Thanksgiving presents an oncology pharmacist could want!

Most people have absolutely no idea what I do- even my family and closest friends. I don’t ever talk about it because it’s too much to explain and most people don’t understand it. Yes, I am a pharmacist, but I do not work in retail and have not dispensed a drug since I was in pharmacy school nor do I work in an actual pharmacy on a daily basis. There are many different types of pharmacists- it would blow your mind the different areas of pharmacy you can go into, but I’m going to focus on the different types in a hospital pharmacy.

  1. Staff Pharmacist- can get a job right out of pharmacy school or with a couple years of experience working in a hospital, works in the pharmacy in the hospital, verifies orders, checks medications, assists with cartfill and emergency medication trays, calls physicians to make recommendations at times, etc.
  2. Clinical Pharmacist- typically has done a general residency for a year or has had many years of experience, usually assigned a floor of patients and sits in a patient care area, looks at medications to make adjustments and recommendations for dosing medications based on kidney function, appropriate antibiotics, doses certain antibiotics on their own, looks at all blood thinners and doses them, converts patients from IV medications to oral medications, provides counseling to the patient, various other duties based on physician consults to the pharmacist and may or may not round with the physician
  3. Clinical Specialist Pharmacist- this type of pharmacist has done an additional year of special residency training in a certain area (oncology, pediatrics, cardiology, infectious diseases, internal medicine, critical care, nutrition, ambulatory care, psychiatry, etc.) and they do everything that the clinical pharmacist does in addition to rounding the physician in the specialty area in the hospital and/or clinic and seeing the patients and providing more one on one assistance to the physician
  4. Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice- typically has done a residency (1-2 yrs) and teaches at a pharmacy school in their area of expertise and also holds a practice site at a hospital as a clinical pharmacist or specialist and is usually fully employed by the school or salary is split between the hospital and school and time is split between both the school and hospital and takes students on rotation during their 4th year
  5. Clinical Pharmacy Manager- looks over all of the clinical pharmacists in the hospital and develops many policies and procedures, drug shortages, attends many meetings and is responsible for being a liaison between physicians and pharmacy
  6. Pharmacy Director- everyone’s boss in the pharmacy, but typically looks over the staff pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, deals with many functions in the pharmacy, scheduling, attends many meetings and works with the clinical manager on many issues such as accreditation, etc.

Whew. That is a brief overview of pharmacist positions in the hospital. I am a combination of #’s 2, 3 and 4. My area of specialty for which I received training is oncology and within all of those specialties that were listed, pharmacists can apply to take boards for certification in that area after completing a residency or working in the area for a few years. Once you have been accepted to the exam, studying is a must. It can cost about $1,000-2,000 once you combine the cost of attending the review, buying the material and taking the exam. Most of the exams have about a 50% pass rate with passing being as low as 62.5% so these exams are extremely tough. For the past 9 months, I had been studying on and off and finally took the exam and officially became board certified as an oncology pharmacist (BCOP)- I just found out less than a week ago and am still ecstatic and in disbelief. It is a huge milestone for many and provides validation for your expertise in the area. However, once you have obtained board certification- it is no joke to keep up with it with hundreds of hours of CE, a fee to maintain and the option of retaking the exam in 5-7 years. Still confused on what a clinical pharmacist, specialist and adjunct faculty do? It’s okay- most people in the healthcare field have no idea and even many pharmacists who don’t work in the hospital are unaware.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post- it is just a stepping stone to help decrease the perception that “all pharmacists do are dispense medications like robots and not use their brains.” The view of pharmacy has been so narrow and I can only hope with more education and awareness that the view can change in the future!

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