Pharmacist Specialization in Canada

4 mins

The topic of pharmacist specialization has been widely discussed among pharmacists and clinicians. This is because many pharmacists are gaining proficiency in specific fields and would benefit from formal recognition of their skills through an official certification or designation. Simultaneously, the increasing scope of practice for pharmacists drives the need for specialization. For instance, a pharmacist prescribing antibiotics for minor ailments such as recurrent urinary tract infections may seek to specialize in infectious diseases in order to advance the care that they provide to patients and their own learning.

Official pharmacist specialization is not yet possible in Canada, but research is continuously being conducted to assess its feasibility and develop an efficient system to allow this to happen. A report published by the two authors with funding and support from organizations such as Blueprint for Pharmacy and the Canadian Pharmacists Association discusses the current state of pharmacist specialization in Canada and their recommendations to achieve this.  

First, an official definition of pharmacist specialization in Canada needs to be created. This needs to be done first, as there needs to be clarity regarding what pharmacists need to do in order to become certified in any given field, and what these pharmacists need to do to adhere to a certain standard of care in practice. This includes completing a certain amount of formal education to receive the certification, then completing annual ‘refresher’ modules to stay up-to-date with current standards of practice, as well as following specific protocol when providing specialized education and clinical services to patients.  

After an official definition is created, research needs to be conducted on what a formal process for pharmacist specialization might look like. This allows key stakeholders of pharmaceutical organizations and pharmacists to predict the impacts on patients and the overarching healthcare system. Pharmacist specialization also affects the chain of care, as pharmacists take on a larger role in directly caring for patients. Prescribers, allied healthcare professionals, and support workers may find their roles and responsibilities being modified to better accommodate certified pharmacists to work in a more niche area.  

Building onto the previous point, research also needs to be conducted on the implementation of a formally researched process for pharmacist specialization. How can this process be made sustainable for pharmacists and key stakeholders when thinking about demand, costs, and downstream effects on patients and families? Some suggestions are to begin officially recognizing international certifications that are already held by practicing pharmacists, and to look to the US and other countries that already have a working system in place for pharmacists to specialize. Cost-benefit analyses need to be rigorously conducted to ensure that pharmacist specialization in Canada can be made possible in a cost-effective manner.  

Lastly, conducting public outreach and soliciting feedback from leaders and innovators in the pharmacy profession will help ascertain the advantages of pharmacist specialization in Canada. Pharmacist specialization directly benefits patients, and therefore, it is reasonable that a certain amount of demand will come from the public. Once patients, other healthcare providers, and policy-makers increase their own personal understanding of pharmacist specialization, it will become easier to move forward with its planning and execution. This is arguably one of the most important points as pharmacist specialization ultimately benefits patients, enhancing their health outcomes in a tangible way.  

The Blueprint for Pharmacy, a ‘long-term, multi-stakeholder strategy designed to catalyze, coordinate and facilitate changes to align pharmacy practice with the health care needs of Canadians’, recognizes the need for pharmacist specialization in Canada. We still have a ways to go before pharmacists can officially specialize, but the research and efforts put towards this initiative have been very promising so far. It is clear that pharmacist specialization will improve the care provided to patients and improve their quality of life, motivating pharmacists to collectively work harder to achieve this common goal.


  1. Skromeda K, Cooper J. Report on pharmacy specialization in Canada. Can Pharm J (Ott). 2015 Nov;148(6):357–60.
  1. Blueprint for Pharmacy: Transition in a New Era. Canadian Pharmacists Association. 2015. Available from: