Continuing Professional Development: What’s in Your Plan?

February 2017, Vol 5, No 2 - The First Word
Donald J. Dietz, RPh, MS

I became familiar with the term “continuing professional development” several years ago as a pharmacist preceptor. Continuing professional development is defined as a “self-directed, ongoing, and outcomes-focused approach to lifelong learning.”1 This approach includes actively participating in learning activities to help develop and maintain competency, improve professional practice, and promote the attainment of career goals.

As a pharmacist preceptor to 6th-year advanced pharmacy practice experience students from 5 pharmacy schools, my fellow preceptors and I emphasize lifelong learning as one of the goals for these future pharmacists. We subscribe to dozens of hard copy and online publications that address a variety of areas in pharmacy, including the manufacturing of medicines, payment and insurance coverage, and the dispensing of medication in pharmacies. During the month-long or 5-week rotation, student pharmacists have to review a recent copy of a different periodical each day, summarize it in a paragraph, and build a listing of the 20 to 25 publications that they have reviewed. We ask them to include the subscription process, website, and target audience, and to summarize in a paragraph their impressions of the publication or the article that was of interest to them. This has proved to provide valuable insight, because pharmacists have come back to us and mentioned that they still subscribe to a particular periodical they had reviewed during their rotation. Other learning modules we use include health literacy, hands-on patient instruction for several drug delivery devices, and pharmacy professional advocacy.

Four key components of skills and behaviors associated with continuing professional development are reflection, planning, learning, and evaluation. Many pharmacy schools incorporate this into their didactic curriculum, as well as into their requirements for advanced pharmacy practice experience students, with the inclusion of reflective assignments for each experiential rotation. We ask our student pharmacists to research and present to our team a topic that they believe they need to improve on before taking the pharmacy boards and beginning their career. Often, this is a topic they view as a weak point in their self-assessment; students will frequently research a disease with new treatment guidelines or new drug therapy options that were not covered in their didactic lectures on that therapeutic category. Based on these processes that we implement, I thought I had this continuing professional development process under control.

New Perspective on Continuing Professional Development

At a recent industry conference, Marsha K. Millonig, MBA, BPharm, President and Chief Executive Officer of Catalyst Enterprises, Eagan, MN, delivered a very interesting presentation regarding community pharmacy accreditation.2 One of the accrediting bodies, the Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation (CPPA), has practice standards for community pharmacy, telepharmacy, and specialty pharmacy that include “Goal Standards.” For example, a CPPA goal for specialty pharmacy is that “the specialty pharmacy practice evaluates and documents competency and facilitates continuing professional development of staff involved in patient care service delivery.”3

This caught my interest, because up to that moment I only thought of continuing professional development for student pharmacists. Ms Millonig described how pharmacists employed in CPPA-accredited specialty pharmacies need to have a continuing professional development program, which includes their continuing education hours’ requirement for license renewal.

This was a revelation to me. I have mistakenly viewed completing my continuing education requirements as a task that I sought to accomplish far in advance of registration renewal, and to make sure that I included any of the required continuing education for license renewal in the state where I am licensed. My hours were accumulated by attending conferences and completing online or print continuing education programs.

Ms Millonig further explained that all pharmacists should have a continuing education professional development program written out. This should be part of their portfolio, along with performance reviews from their current employer, and be included with their resume when applying for a new position. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education has a sample portfolio template available on its website.4 For a specialty pharmacist, this could include specific continuing education programs pertaining to a disease area of focus for that pharmacist, such as oncology or multiple sclerosis. Because many specialty pharmacists interact with patients via the phone, a refresher continuing education course on motivational interviewing may be beneficial.

Looking introspectively, although I did not previously think of a personal continuing professional development plan for my continuing education, I annually sought out a continuing education program on new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in the past year to keep abreast of the latest drugs entering the market. I subscribe to Pharmacist’s Letter, which updates their subscribers monthly on the latest information relevant to pharmacists. Occasionally, I will complete a continuing education program to improve my skills as a preceptor.

As I now seek to formalize my continuing professional development program, I will incorporate my past activities, but I need to build on them. My goals are to include programs that discuss new treatment guidelines involving prescription drugs, and to examine new opportunities for pharmacists to become more involved in the initiation, continuation, and discontinuance of prescription drugs with collaborative practice agreements and standing orders. I am interested in any continuing education programs related to the use of technology to improve patient care.

The concept of continuing professional development for licensed pharmacists resonated with me. To learn more about continuing professional development for pharmacists, consider resources from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, such as “Guidance on Continuing Professional Development for the Profession of Pharmacy.”5 Whether you are a newly licensed pharmacist just graduating, or a seasoned pharmacist who remembers when Dyazide was the most-dispensed drug, please consider developing a continuing professional development program around your continuing education requirements. It was an enlightening concept for me, and I believe it will benefit you as a pharmacist and, ultimately, the care you provide to your patients. What is in your continuing education plan?


  1. Baumgartner JL. Continuing professional development: what it means for student pharmacists. September 14, 2015. Accessed February 10, 2017.
  2. Millonig MK. Community pharmacy accreditation: does it make a difference? Presented at the American Society for Automation in Pharmacy Annual Conference; January 18-20, 2017; Amelia Island, FL.
  3. Center for Pharmacy Practice Accreditation. Specialty pharmacy practice standards. Version 1. January 5, 2015. Accessed February 10, 2017.
  4. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. CPD portfolio. Accessed February 13, 2017.
  5. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Guidance on Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for the Profession of Pharmacy. Accessed February 3, 2017.
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Last modified: March 1, 2017
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