Lifelong Learning in Specialty Pharmacy Goes Beyond Continuing Education Requirements

Many of us anticipated our college graduation day and looked forward to a change from the days of studying, writing papers, and taking exams. Those of us who graduated from pharmacy school had one more hurdle after graduation, sitting for the state board and pharmacy law examinations to earn an official license as a registered pharmacist.  

With degree and license in hand, you are ready to begin a professional career and believe you will never study or take an all-encompassing exam like the pharmacy boards again. Depending on where you hold a license to practice pharmacy, however, continuing education is required annually or biannually, and is easy to obtain. 

In a sense, continuing education does require some test taking, ensuring the goals of the program were met and the knowledge check does not employ trick questions, essays, or layered multiple choice options, like college exams. Continuing education is critical to staying abreast of changes in pharmacy and health care.
It is meant to enrich, enhance, and expand what a practitioner has an interest in today and maybe pique your interest in an area outside of your current practice. Most continuing education programs are designed to be concise enough to provide an overview on a topic and some skills training to enhance one’s practice.   

Continuing education is not enough to differentiate a practitioner as having an in-depth experience, knowledge or skillset about a topic, but it can open a door to new opportunities. When a topic is intriguing or something that keeps presenting itself, what options does the practitioner follow to learn more or take it further?

There is no perfect answer, but sage advice to recent graduates applies to all of us—no matter how many years have passed since graduation—is to think beyond the present and consider a career path.  Anyone can get a job, but a pharmacist is well equipped with a professional degree, a license, and endless opportunities to differentiate oneself in the market through residencies, post-graduate experiences, mentorships, preceptorship, professional association membership, additional certifications and licensure, or obtaining an advanced degree.  

To decide which path is most appropriate, one needs to do a little research about the health care market, a self-assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and the desire to keep learning for the sake of learning. It is never too late to start investing in your professional development. For many reasons, the best time to focus on a specialized area of practice—even earn a certification in an area of competency like specialty pharmacy or nuclear pharmacy—is after practicing for a decade or two.  

Take a more active role in a professional association or invest in yourself by contemplating a return to the classroom for an advanced degree; it is never too late to enhance one’s education and skillset, providing interest and variety throughout one’s career. 

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