Oncology pharmacists dispense medicines to cancer patients that provide patients with supportive care and a better quality of life. They also advise patients on how to take their medications safely. Training to be an oncology pharmacist takes a minimum of six years, starting from the time you begin college through pharmacy school.
You have to spend at least two years in an undergraduate degree program before you can enroll in a pharmacy program to earn the Doctor of Pharmacy degree, or Pharm.D. Some pharmacy programs require a bachelor's degree before enrollment. Pharm. D. programs require post-secondary courses in biology, chemistry and anatomy.
Doctor of Pharmacy
Although certain Pharm. D. programs provide students with a three-year option, most last four years before you can earn your pharmacy degree. In the program, you take courses such as pharmacology and medical ethics. You will also gain work experience under supervision in a variety of settings including retail pharmacies and hospitals. Although Pharm. D. programs don't focus specifically on oncology, your program may allow you to get a rotation in an oncology clinic.
Oncology pharmacists are clinical pharmacists, so you need to complete a residency program following pharmacy school. Oncology pharmacy residency programs typically last one year. Residency programs are offered in a variety of settings, including hospitals and cancer centers affiliated with universities. During the residency, you’ll learn how to treat cancer patients and conduct clinical research. You may also have the opportunity to teach at the residency university or hospital.
You must be licensed before you can start practicing as a pharmacist. All of the states require pharmacist licenses. Upon successfully completing your Pharm. D., you become eligible to sit for the two exams you must pass to get licensed. One exam is in pharmacy skills and knowledge while the other is on your state’s pharmacy laws.
Oncology Pharmacy Certification
To be eligible for oncology pharmacy certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, you need practice experience in addition to your pharmacy degree and license. If the residency program is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists or is considered for accreditation, you need to have completed one year of practice experience. At least 50 percent of that year must be dedicated to oncology pharmacy activities. If your residency program isn’t ASHP-accredited, you need four years of practice experience instead. The 50 percent rule still applies. You earn certification after passing the Oncology Pharmacy Specialty Certification Examination.
- Yale Cancer Center: The Role of Oncology Pharmacists for Patient s
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Pharmacists Do
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Pharmacist
- Board of Pharmacy Specialties: Oncology Pharmacy
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Pharmacy Residency Program: Oncology Residency
- The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: PGY2 Oncology Pharmacy Residency
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