Continuing education, CE, for pharmacists ensures that individuals participate in activities that further their education and keep them apprised of developments in the pharmacy industry. As research in the area of pharmaceuticals is constantly evolving, pharmacists must keep up-to-date with this information to provide the best patient care. Additionally, CE activities may be required by one’s state board for license renewal. While pharmacy schools are responsible for teaching students information that is current at the time of enrollment, CE activities are designed to update this education.
The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) is the national agency for the accreditation of professional degree programs in pharmacy, and it also accredits providers of continuing education. The Pharmacists’ Learning Assistance Network (P.L.A.N.®) is a service provided to pharmacists through the ACPE that informs one of CE opportunities. It provides a summary of all the continuing education programs offered by ACPE-accredited providers.
Continuing education activities can take the form of a conference, online course, review of publications, or participation in some form of electronically available conference. The content for these activities is put together and presented by professionals who are experts in the material presented. Typically, at the outset of the presentation there is a disclosure of financial backing, as it may relate to the material. Any presentation of research should include a conflict of interest disclosure.
Aside from the clear advantage of staying current on research through CE activities, many states require continuing education for license renewal. Of the 53 U.S. jurisdictions (50 states plus D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico), 51 require pharmacists to complete a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) before they can renew their licenses. Typically, states require approximately 15 hours of CEUs each year, the majority of which must come from participation at a live presentation of information, such as a seminar or conference. For example, New York requires a minimum of 45 contact hours, at least 23 of which must be accrued from live presentations of material, in each three-year registration period. As of September 1, 2003, the 45 hours required must include at least 3 credit hours of continuing education on the topic of reducing medication and prescription errors.
CE activities are available through a variety of means. Attendance at a conference can be a source of CE credit. Additionally, many web sites keep listings of available online courses. Professional societies may also have course offerings. Another source of CE activities may come from for-profit sources, such as pharmaceutical companies or laboratories.
Continuing education is the process by which a pharmacist furthers his or her education in his or her field. These CE activities can be found at conferences or through many additional sources. Accumulation of these credit hours will likely be required to renew one’s pharmacy license.