One of the hallmarks of a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center like Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the only such designated center in the state, is the unique oncology expertise exhibited by its clinical team. This includes pharmacists who are board certified. Of the Board Certified Oncology (BCOP) Pharmacists in the state, ten percent practice at Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health. Along with other members of the pharmacy team, these specially certified professionals play an integral role in the management of patient care. Michael P. Kane, RPh, BCOP, director of Oncology Pharmacy Services at Rutgers Cancer Institute shares more about the profession.
What are the responsibilities of an oncology pharmacist?
Oncology pharmacists are responsible for ensuring both safety and accuracy in administering both intravenous and oral chemotherapies. We meet with patients during their initial treatment visit and during follow up-visits. Along with educating patients about the therapy they will receive and reviewing the dosing schedule, oncology pharmacists provide patients a comprehensive assessment of other medications and supplements they may be taking. This in-depth medication review allows us to identify the potential for negative reactions to the anti-cancer agent prescribed and the opportunity to substitute medications to minimize adverse outcomes. This ultimately could prevent patient discomfort or even additional trips to the doctor.
What sets an oncology pharmacist apart from those in other healthcare settings?
At Rutgers Cancer Institute, our pharmacists have experience in pain management and supportive care. They also participate in research. The latter includes the preparation, handling and storage of investigational agents being used in clinical trials. We also provide expert consultation on the use of new agents regarding drug interactions and sequencing and how they're administered, resulting in an additional level of quality assurance for clinical trials.
Our oncology pharmacists also have the ability to interact directly with the patient, their doctor, nurse and other members of the care team about the patient's specific treatment needs. In other settings, the patient does not have this benefit and may not even have an opportunity to meet the pharmacist.
Tell us about the BCOP certification. What does that mean for cancer patients?
The BCOP certification indicates a quality of excellence and enhanced level of knowledge beyond a traditional pharmacy education. As cancer therapies become more personalized, the complexities of cancer treatment continue to grow. Equipped to understand such intricacies, pharmacists who are BCOP certified have an in-depth appreciation of clinical skills and therapeutic management and are proficient in pharmacy guidelines, standards and policies in the oncology setting. Out of all of the Board Certified Oncology Pharmacists in the state, ten percent practice at Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health.
Is it necessary for oncology pharmacists to have the BCOP certification?
It is not a mandatory certification, however we strongly encourage those on our team to strive for this level of excellence. While an important goal for the individual pharmacist, the BCOP certification is also an important reflection of Rutgers Cancer Institute. It shows our level of commitment as an institution to patient care.