In this article, an infectious diseases pharmacist discusses her approach to preparing for the BCIDP exam and provides tips others may find useful for pursuing the same path.
Authored By: Monica V. Mahoney, Pharm.D., BCPS-AQ ID
[Last updated: 21 July 2018]
The first examination of the new board certification in infectious diseases pharmacy (BCIDP) will take place this fall. This designation will replace the former “Additional Qualification in Infectious Diseases (AQ-ID)” recognition that ~300 pharmacists board-certified in pharmacotherapy have attained. It is an exciting time for ID pharmacists, to finally have standalone board certification dedicated to our practice, and not just add-on qualifications!
For those who have registered for the exam, reality may be settling in that you have just forked over a serious amount of money and signed up for a lengthy exam to test your didactic and clinical knowledge about ID. So how does one go about studying for the BCIDP exam?
I am going on record and advertising that I signed up for the exam in September. Along with some amazing Boston-area ID PharmDs, I have convened a weekly study group, to review topics, discuss discrepancies, and hypothesize what the exam may encompass. Additionally, I have authored a BCPS Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program (PSAP) chapter in the past and have submitted questions for consideration for the BCIDP exam. From these experiences, I can share how I am going about studying for the exam.
The exam will be electronic and multiple choice in format, reminiscent of NAPLEX and law exams. (I will pause to allow for a collective shudder). As such, the questions must be designed to have one clear answer and must be backed up by guideline or generally accepted primary literature. Unfortunately, that means your retrospective PGY-1 project will not be used as a reference, but something like a large meta-analyses very well may be!
In my experience writing self-assessment questions for the PSAP, both the correct and incorrect answers had to be referenced with concrete evidence. They cannot be subjective or based on a single author’s opinion. This helps guide you where to study: think national guidelines, large meta-analyses, and landmark clinical trials.
If you have not already, make sure you visit the BPS website! It is full of helpful hints about what to expect from the exam.
Most importantly, however, is the ID Pharmacy Content Outline. This document outlines the different domains, tasks, and knowledge statements that will be tested in the exam, with the percent breakdown of the content. This should serve as your topic study guide!
The content can be broken down into several broad categories…
- Infectious disease states
- Pharmacology of antimicrobials (dosing, mechanisms of action, spectrum of activities, adverse reactions)
- Microbiology knowledge (diagnostics, susceptibilities, resistance)
- A grab-bag of other ID related content (allergies, desensitization, OPAT, PK/PD and monitoring)
- The dreaded statistics section
- Antimicrobial stewardship (think metrics, reporting, regulatory bodies)
- Public health (immunizations, preventing diseases)
The first thing I did after registering for the exam, was to download all the free, relevant IDSA and other national guidelines for disease states listed in the content outline.
Now there is no way anyone can be expected to read each and every guideline word for word. The newer IDSA guidelines have very nice executive summaries at the beginning of each document. The executive summaries, coupled with the epidemiology/causative organisms, and treatment tables are what garner the majority of my attention.
My personal opinion is that since this exam is for pharmacists, there should not be too many questions pertaining to the diagnosis of disease. So while you should be familiar with the diagnosis, I am focusing my efforts on the drugs, doses, duration, and adverse reactions.
Antimicrobial Stewardship Certificate Course
If you have completed an antimicrobial stewardship course through either SIDP, MAD-ID, or another venue, the handouts can be valuable study guides. I am using mine in particular to brush up on antimicrobial stewardship metrics and antibiogram creation/ interpretation.
If you have not completed stewardship certificate training, I would highly encourage it in the future for those who have not completed dedicated post-graduate ID training. They are excellent high-level reviews.
The PSAP series are phenomenal resources for BPS exams. The self-assessment questions mimic the type and format of the BPS exams. Additionally, the home-study materials are excellent reviews of guidelines and key primary literature.
As ID chapters only occur every few years in different PSAP series, caution must be taken to ensure more recent guidelines have not been published. For example, all of the PSAP chapters currently published use the 2010 Clostridium (Clostridioides!) difficile guidelines as their reference, and would no longer be applicable for studying as the 2017 guidelines have been published and have significant changes over the 2010 ones. There’s more on that here if you are interested.
ACCP Updates in Therapeutics
If you were lucky enough to attend in person (or purchased the home study course), ACCP organized a thorough ID review at their Updates in Therapeutics meeting this past February.
The preparatory review material is available for purchase, that includes handouts +/- audio from the meeting. These are high level disease states reviews from leading ID pharmacists. While I personally did not attend, I experienced serious FOMO following on Twitter and heard good things from those who did attend.
IDstewardship.com & LearnAntibiotics.com
Hey! This website you are using to read this witty write up? Have you taken the time to explore what else is on here? There is some great stuff! Check out the “training” tab (also known as LearnAntibiotics.com).
Although mostly geared at trainees, practicing ID pharmacists can also gain experience through some of the practice questions. Especially since I would venture that it has been a while since we have had to sit and think to answer multiple choice questions. Plus there is content continuously being updated so there may be resources to help support your areas of deficiency.
How Am I Studying
Links to all these references are great, but time is limited. How can one possibly cram all this studying, in addition to patient care responsibilities and family/friend balance? Those who know me, know that if I do not get my 8 hours of sleep per night, I am a cranky sourpuss the next day! Also, I am too cheap to spend money on multiple references. (There are just too many cute shoes to buy).
So what have I been doing? I’ve been using people.
In a good way! I promise!
I am fortunate enough to work in Boston. You cannot throw a stone without hitting a hospital in Boston. And thankfully, each of those hospitals has at least one ID pharmacist. Another fun fact about me is that I love to plan things. Activities Cruise Ship Director is my dream job. So, I organized weekly study sessions with all interested Boston ID pharmacists. We generated a list of infectious topics and assigned 2 or 3 topics per attendee. The expectation is that the leader creates a summary document that is circulated to everyone in the group and leads the discussion on the topic(s). We are a lively bunch, so we interject and discuss the guidelines and recommendations. We try to guess whether or not content will be included on the exam, we try to figure out how a multiple choice question could be phrased to ask the topic at hand, and we flood our email inboxes with links to citations and references.
Most importantly, though, is that we try to work smartly. All of us are busy. Many of us lecture at colleges. All of us precept students and/or residents. We all have partial or complete presentations on these topics. So we repurpose them and use this as an opportunity to update our material. I am currently updating an endocarditis/central line infection/cardiac device infection topic discussion. I will absolutely use this document again in a topic discussion with my residents. Additionally, use your students or residents! Ask them to lead a topic discussion as well. After all, a rising tide raises all boats!
What about you?
If you are studying for the BCIDP, what resources have you been using? What study tactics have you been employing? You can share your ideas not listed above by emailing IDstewardship@gmail.com. This way more tips can be added here and we can help more people increase their chances of passing!
To all those taking the exam in the fall, good luck!
…update in late December… Dr. Mahoney is now BCIDP as is all others from her study group.
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