With the aging of the population, pharmacists are feeling the pressure to gain a level of expertise in the field of gerontology. To help them, the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP) plans to develop a national voluntary certification program for geriatric pharmacy.
"There is an increasing need for R.Ph.s to be knowledgeable in the unique aspects of providing care to the elderly population," said Thomas Clark, R.Ph., director of professional affairs at ASCP. At the same time, he noted, most pharmacy schools have not provided much education in geriatric medicine, graduating pharmacists who lack sufficient training in the field. The certification program is expected to give R.Ph.s the opportunity to prove their knowledge and skill in this growing area.
"An R.Ph. who passes the certification exam would presumably become more attractive to employers, particularly in the long-term care setting where geriatrics is such an important element," Clark explained. He expects long-term care pharmacies to become interested in staffing these certified R.Ph.s as a way of demonstrating competency in geriatrics to their customers and projecting that competency to managed care payers who contract with them. In addition, "we feel many of the organizations may be interested in certification as a way of helping to comply with the Joint Commission [on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations], which has an accreditation program specifically for long-term care pharmacy organizations," Clark remarked.
The program being developed is not considered a specialty under the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS) definition. Despite that, this new program does not appear to be at a major disadvantage. There is no current BPS specialty in geriatrics to compete with, and, said Clark, there will be more interest in the program's ability to introduce qualified pharmacists into geriatrics than in its lack of a specialty label.
At this time, the ASCP is conducting a practice analysis to determine the level of knowledge and skills necessary for R.Ph.s to provide "high-quality" pharmaceutical care to the elderly. "A committee overseeing the analysis mailed a survey instrument to pharmacists involved in geriatric practice to seek their input in helping to define what should be included within the certification program," explained Clark. …