Continuing education (CE) is important in most professions but pharmacy continuing education is vital.
Patients depend on you for health and medication information and because of that, you need to be up to date on every aspect of your profession.
Pharmacy continuing education is mandated in every state. Each pharmacist must take a specified number of courses per year. Some states mandate that some of these courses be live (courses taken in person) but others leave it to the pharmacist to choose between live and electronic courses.
“It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have but it’s just a mandate in order to keep you current,” says Ernie Gates, president of Gates Healthcare Associates, a pharmaceutical and healthcare consulting firm in Boston, Mass.
“Healthcare is a very changing profession. You don’t want to wake up one day and find you’re obsolete.”
The exact number of courses you need to take depends on where you practice. If you’re not sure, contact your state Board of Pharmacy, which will have all the information.
For details on which courses you can take, check organizations you’re a member of, such as the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and the Professional Compounding Centers of America. Members of these organizations receive regular emails about available courses.
Otherwise, you can look into colleges of pharmacy or check the websites of the above organizations for information.
Courses for the continuing education for pharmacists
Each continuing education unit (CEU) lasts one hour and subjects range from law and legal regulations in your state to new drugs, compounding, infusion therapy and geriatric care.
Courses can be taken online, which is the most popular way to do them, since pharmacists can choose when to do them; you can also take them in person, at a local college; through a pharmaceutical organization; through drug manufacturers, who provide CE to help pharmacists understand their drugs; pharmacy schools; and many private companies.
Attending conferences, seminars, lectures, etc. can also qualify as continuing education for pharmacists.
When do you take continuing education courses?
You can take all the required courses at once or you can spread them over the calendar year. Everything must be completed by December 31.
After the courses
Once you have completed a course you receive a certificate proving you took it. Pharmacists need to keep hold of these certificates for at least two years because if the Board of Pharmacy calls on you, you must be able to show them. “There are states that do audits on a routine basis,” says Gates. “You must have proof and the burden of proof is on you.”
If you can’t show a certificate when called upon, the board will pick a discretionary penalty. This could lead to a pharmacist losing his or her license, but usually he or she is required to take more CE courses as well as a penalty course.