Cardiology Pharmacy Residency Programs

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Earlier this year, the ACC released a statement recognizing the importance of cardiovascular team-based care and the need for highly trained team members, including pharmacists. Highlighted in the manuscript was the role of postgraduate residency programs in helping meet this growing demand.

Approximately one-third of pharmacists pursue postgraduate residency training, a process that has become highly competitive. In 2014, less than two-thirds of applicants entering the match successfully obtained positions. An expanding number of residents are now pursuing a second year of training specifically focused in cardiology practice, placing them at the forefront of cardiovascular practice, education, and research.

Pre-Requisite Training

Prior to completing residency training, candidates must obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, which includes a minimum of two to three years of undergraduate coursework, although nearly 70 percent of entering students have undergraduate degrees.

In the PharmD curriculum, students complete didactic training in pathophysiology, pharmacology and therapeutics, as well as skills-based courses focusing on the fundamentals of professional practice. The capstone of the curriculum is comprised of pharmacy practice experiences, where students apply their learning in real-world settings.

After successfully passing their licensure exam, pharmacists interested in cardiovascular pharmacy practice must first complete a postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) residency in general pharmacy practice prior to pursuing a postgraduate year 2 (PGY2) residency in cardiology.


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Whereas training programs in many professions consist of on-the-job training, pharmacy residency programs must meet rigorous educational standards in order to be accredited nationally. In the US, there are currently 23 accredited cardiology pharmacy programs and seven undergoing the accreditation process. The standards upon which accreditation is based incorporate 29 goals, including aspects as diverse as cardiovascular knowledge, direct patient care skills, leadership, research and education.

Program Design

The training offered as part of cardiology pharmacy residency programs generally focuses on three main components: practice, education and scholarship. Most programs emphasize acute and critical care experiences in areas such as general cardiology, heart failure, anticoagulation, electrophysiology, cardiac surgery, mechanical circulatory support and heart transplantation. Most also require ambulatory care experiences, such as weekly anticoagulation or heart failure clinics.

Complementing these practice experiences are opportunities to participate in practice management activities, such as committee involvement and quality improvement projects. Residents are also required to engage in teaching activities, which may include interactions with both pharmacy learners as well as professionals in other disciplines.

Many programs offer teaching certificate programs, which expose trainees to the fundamentals of educational theory and practice. Finally, residents must complete a research project in cardiovascular therapeutics. Most present their results at regional or national conferences and many publish in peer-reviewed journals.


Most graduates of cardiology pharmacy residency programs accept positions as clinical pharmacists in clinics or hospitals, or as practice faculty at schools or colleges of pharmacy. A minority will pursue research fellowships. Most will seek board certification by examination as well as credentials offered by other certifying organizations.

This article was authored by Brent Reed, PharmD, BCPS-AQ Cardiology.