Why You Should Become Board Certified in Oncology

June 11, 2018

New developments in cancer treatment require medication experts-here's how you can become that expert.

The increasing number of drugs and complexity of drug therapy in the treatment and prevention of cancer requires advanced and specialized knowledge and experience. Board-certified oncology pharmacists (BCOPs) are stepping in to meet this need.

Oncology pharmacists represent a broad range of expertise and work in a variety of settings. Most commonly, they provide direct patient care using an evidence-based patient-centered medication therapy management approach. However, they may also be involved in nondirect patient care, such as practice management, investigational drugs or clinical trials, pharmaceutical industry, regulatory agencies, and health plan sponsors/pharmacy benefit managers. In many cases, an advanced level of certification can allow for a higher salary, promotions, and new practice opportunities.

Related article: Why I Became a Board-Certified Geriatric Pharmacist

Certification allows me to practice at an advanced level of pharmacy practice in a complicated disease state, and work in multiple practice settings. Currently, I work in a team-based practice alongside a medical oncologist. Together, we review patient histories and develop cancer treatment plans throughout these patients’ disease. My expertise in understanding the complex therapies is important to effectively monitor for and prevent and manage cancer- and drug-related adverse events. I’m recognized by my institution and profession as someone who is well-qualified to be a provider on the healthcare team. 

Several pathways exist to board certification. Most commonly, pharmacists complete an advanced pharmacy practice residency in oncology or participate in on the job training.1 However, the only formal method to determine if pharmacists are qualified to contribute at advanced practice levels is the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) oncology pharmacy board examination.

To take the oncology board-certification exam, pharmacists must complete a:

  • Postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) general residency and a PGY2 oncology residency program;

  • PGY1 program and two additional recent years of oncology pharmacy experience after licensure; or

  • Four years of recent oncology pharmacy practice experience.

Recertification must be done every seven years and can be accomplished through re-examination or completion of 100 hours of continuing education specifically designated as BCOP appropriate.

Related article: The Value of Board-Certified Psychiatric Pharmacists

Certification in oncology allows the pharmacist to demonstrate to the healthcare team, employers, and patients/caregivers that he/she is uniquely trained and educated to meet the specialized needs of oncology patients. The oncology pharmacy board exam ensures that the pharmacist has a thorough knowledge of pathophysiology and molecular biology of cancer; therapeutics, patient management and education; clinical trials and research; practice management; and public health. With this knowledge, they have the unique expertise to be able to manage cancer- and treatment-related problems that are not encountered in other disease states.  

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