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Alabama Hospital Pharmacists Climb Meritorious Ladder to Meet Career Goals

Donna Young

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital established a leadership development program nearly three years ago as a way to recognize pharmacists who accomplish certain career goals.

Known as "Guidelines for Faculty Recognition," the program has helped bolster "pride in the hospital’s pharmacy practice by establishing certain expectations of pharmacists," said Nancy Cooper, senior pharmacist and chairwoman of the pharmacy’s education committee.

Cooper said her 900-bed hospital has established guidelines for three levels of progression: practitioner, specialty practitioner, and preceptor. As of March 5, 47% of the pharmacists have met the requirements to become practitioners, 15% have reached the level of specialty practitioner, and about 26% have obtained preceptor status; another 8% were recently hired or are training to become practitioners.

Requirements for Each Rung on Career Ladder

Practitioner level

  • Completion of department orientation requirements
  • Completion of "basic life support" and "advanced cardiac life support" provider courses
  • Competency in basic pharmacokinetics
  • Fulfillment of the activities checklist specific to a practice area
  • Participation in all departmental therapeutic and clinical initiatives appropriate to the pharmacist’s practice area

Specialty practitioner level

  • Advancement to practitioner level
  • >50% of workday spent practicing in a specialty area
  • Two letters of support from pharmacy faculty members, one of whom must be the pharmacist’s supervisor
  • Certification in pharmacokinetics (an inhouse program)

Preceptor level

  • Advancement to specialty practitioner level
  • One letter of support from an attending medical faculty member describing the pharmacist’s contributions to patient care in a specialized area
  • Display of willingness to teach, such as participation in inservice education, lectures, and other educational activities recognized by the department’s education committee
  • Attendance at required continuing-education seminars
  • Application to the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy for recognition as a preceptor
  • Practice experience, based on level of education and training

"Not all practitioners may want to go on to be specialty practitioners, and not all specialty practitioners may want to be preceptors," she said. "It depends on what their goals are and what they can fit into their lives. Because we have some pharmacists who work part time or prefer to rotate to different patient care areas, they may not meet the requirements to become specialty practitioners or preceptors."

Pharmacists who have completed a Pharm.D. degree and a residency program, Cooper said, need no additional practice experience to be considered by the pharmacy’s education committee for preceptor status. Pharmacists who have completed a residency but do not have a Pharm.D. degree need at least one year of practice experience to be considered for preceptor. Pharmacists with a Pharm.D. degree but who did not complete a residency program are required to have at least three years of practice experience. And pharmacists with a bachelor of science degree must have at least five years of practice experience to be considered for preceptor status.

The program does include a fourth level of progression, Cooper added, that of residency program director. For that level, attained by 4% of the department’s pharmacists, the department adopted the requirements established by ASHP’s Commission on Credentialing.

As a reward for reaching the practitioner level, pharmacists are eligible for departmental support to attend continuing-education (CE) meetings.

The benefits of obtaining specialty practitioner status include preferential scheduling and first consideration, ahead of pharmacists at the practitioner level, for departmental support to attend CE meetings.

Cooper said the prospect of having a "meritorious leadership role to guide students through rotations" acts as an incentive for a pharmacist to seek preceptor status. Also, she said, preceptors are rewarded with other decision-making roles, including the ability to accept students applying for a clinical rotation program. Preceptors are compensated with the same benefits provided to specialty practitioners concerning work schedules and consideration for CE meetings.

Pharmacists who attain the status of specialty practitioner or preceptor, Cooper said, are presented with a certificate of achievement from UAB’s pharmacy director, Mark Todd.

The program has acted as a good recruiting tool, Cooper said. Many students—several of whom come to the hospital from nearby Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy—who have completed a clinical rotation or residency program at UAB Hospital and observed the leadership development program have stayed to join the more than 100 pharmacists at the hospital as full-time staff members, she said.