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Jamie Kohler, PharmD Candidate 2023
North Dakota State University
Williston, ND 

Amy Werremeyer, PharmD, BCPP
Professor & Chair, Dept. of Pharmacy Practice
Clinical Specialist in Psychiatry
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND

One of the most important elements to advancing the profession of pharmacy is the commitment to lifelong learning. However, the delivery of continuing education has experienced relatively little change in the past 50 years in comparison to the changes we have seen in the profession of pharmacy.1 Traditionally, continuing education has been delivered through formal training with the learner motivated by the need to meet predetermined credits/hours set by the state boards of pharmacy or the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). Over the last several decades, new methods of delivering education to pharmacists and other health professionals have been proposed and integrated in some areas. The concept of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is gaining recognition as a system of learning that focuses on meeting and maintaining competencies throughout a pharmacist’s career.2 The goal of this article is to explain what CPD is and why it is important for psychiatric pharmacy residents and new practitioners.

What is continuing professional development and what does it entail?

CPD, as defined by the Accreditation Council on Pharmacy Education (ACPE), is “a self-directed, ongoing, systematic and outcomes-focused approach to lifelong learning that is applied to practice.”2 CPD often may involve traditional continuing education formats/activities, but is also broadened to include formal and informal learning activities that contribute to professional development of the individual pharmacist. The CPD process is designed to be recorded at each stage into a personal learning portfolio. The main components of the process are reflect, plan, learn, evaluate, and apply. When deciding on an area of learning, pharmacists should reflect on personal and organizational needs and goals. Once these learning needs have been identified, a plan should be developed including learning objectives, formal and informal learning activities, short and long term goals, and measures of success. Colleagues can be included in this plan to provide support for learning over an extended period of time (see example below). The pharmacist then carries out the learning and evaluates the impact and outcomes. The content is then applied to the pharmacist’s practice in order to bridge the classroom and workplace. Reviewing and documenting progress and attainment of mastery is necessary at all steps in this process.

How does continuing professional development differ from continuing professional education?

The current continuing education strategies are only one piece of the puzzle in the CPD model. Continuing pharmacy education (CPE) is defined by ACPE as “a structured educational activity designed or intended to support continuing development to maintain and enhance competence.”2 In addition to CPE, CPD includes active participation in formal and informal learning activities that contribute to the professional development of the pharmacist. One critique of traditional continuing education is that it effectively improves the knowledge of the professional, but it has little to no impact on patient outcome.3 The key difference of CPD is the requirement to actively apply what has been learned to practice.

Why is continuing professional development important for psychiatric pharmacy residents and new practitioners?

As stated before, the profession of pharmacy has experienced a dramatic change in the past several decades. The pharmacist of today is expected to perform more skills and be accountable for more knowledge than they have in the past, and psychiatric pharmacy is no exception. Beyond the management of CPE credits by state boards of pharmacy, the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) is the largest regulator of continuing education. In April of 2022, BPS put out an update to the current recertification pathway that includes the CPD model.4 This change will apply to all pharmacists who are board certified and/or recertified in 2024 or later. The updated recertification requirements will be comprised of two pathways. The first would require an individual to complete 100 units of CPD during their 7-year certification cycle. Of the 100 units, 80 units must be BPS-approved, assessed CPE, and the remaining 20 units may consist of self-selected/self-reported CPD activities. The second recertification pathway would require the applicant to achieve a passing score on the recertification exam and successfully complete 20 units of self-selected/self-reported CPD activities. Examples of CPD activities include BPS-approved CPE, academic/professional/interprofessional study, continuing education portfolios, teaching and/or precepting learners, scholarly activities, and leadership/professional service. As current and future Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacists, it is important to keep these changes in mind. In addition, psychiatric pharmacy residents and new practitioners can begin to proactively think about the ways in which they want to grow as pharmacy professionals and start to set in motion a plan for CPD to support this growth. Do you want to become a better preceptor? Maybe you want to improve your practice in conducting drug and alcohol screenings in your clinic visits. Or perhaps you’d like to better understand how you could collect patient-centered outcomes that show your practice impact. Each of these areas of professional growth could be met in multiple ways, including CPD activities. Thus, taking steps now to: reflect, create a plan, locate a mentor, engage in conversation with others in your practice setting, and/or take a CPE module, are all options in front of you with the CPD approach.

Although the Board of Pharmacy Specialties has not yet provided specific examples, approvals, or documented recommendations of CPD activities, the spirit of CPD4 would suggest the following scenario could be an example of how a CPD process might work for an individual pharmacist.

  1. Reflect: The pharmacist reflects on areas of strength and/or opportunities to grow/improve. Example: “I’d like to be able to collect information about how my psychiatric pharmacy practice in the substance use disorder clinic is impacting patients, and I think my supervisor would appreciate this too, but I have no experience in this area and don’t know how to begin.”
  2. Plan: The pharmacist creates a plan to address the opportunity to grow/improve. Example: “I know that Jane Doe, BCPP spoke at an AAPP webinar about collecting patient-centered outcomes. I should re-watch that webinar and maybe even email Jane Doe to ask some questions and learn more about her experience. I’ll also ensure I have my supervisor’s support to start down this road.”
  3. Learn: The pharmacist engages in the planned formal/informal learning activity, even if it isn’t associated with actual continuing education credits. Example: “I watched the webinar and had a 20 minute Zoom meeting with Jane Doe. I learned of some specific rating scales and other information I can collect from my patient visits and some logistics about how to use/collect this information in my clinic. I reported this learning to my supervisor, who is interested in potential implementation.”
  4. Evaluate: The pharmacist evaluates what was learned and its impact on the opportunity to grow/improve. Example: “That was very helpful. I’m feeling more confident and ready to give it a try.” OR “That was helpful, but I still need to learn about how to start the billing process in my clinic.” (back to step 3!)
  5. Apply: The pharmacist applies what was learned in their practice setting. Example “Since starting 1 month ago, I was able to collect completed rating scales from 60% of the patients I saw in my SUD clinic. From this information, I can see that many of my patients continue to experience cravings despite their current mode of treatment.”

The pharmacist might document the above process in a portfolio to show that the process took place and the effect it had. And the entire CPD process can begin again back at the top with reflection, and so on as new obstacles or ideas arise.

Learn more about CPD on the ACPE website at


  1. Micallef R, Kayyali R. A Systematic Review of Models Used and Preferences for Continuing Education and Continuing Professional Development of Pharmacists. Pharmacy (Basel). 2019;7(4):154. Published 2019 Nov 16. doi:10.3390/pharmacy7040154
  2. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education Guidance on Continuing Professional Development for the Profession of Pharmacy. Published January 2015. Accessed October 13th, 2022.
  3. Wheeler JS, Chisholm-Burns M. The Benefit of Continuing Professional Development for Continuing Pharmacy Education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2018;82(3):6461. doi:10.5688/ajpe6461
  4. Request for proposals to provide a professional development program for the recertification of board-certified pharmacist. Published April 2022. Accessed October 13th, 2022.
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