Okay… I didn’t anticipate that I’d be getting as many questions from fellow pharmacists about becoming Epic Willow certified and the whole process so I’m adding this section to the site to share the questions I’m getting and the answers I’m giving.
Got a question? I’m sure I can dig up an answer for you 😉
PS: Don’t worry about the section in the form below that says “Tag”… I just haven’t yet figured out how to get rid of it 🙂
My name is Daniel and I am a 4th year pharmacy student that is currently on rotations right now. I stumbled upon your website and I have some questions about the position of IT pharmacist. I have a huge interest in this role and have already done some research about it. I just started my Peds rotation and I wanted to learn about Epic Willow and ultimately get certified.
I recently exchanged emails with Epic and they told me that I have to either get employed at a hospital that uses Epic or work as a consultant in order to be certified.
So my question is if it’s possible to shadow you for a couple hours and perhaps talk to you my direction as a 4th year pharmacy student.
I’m a consultant at a health organization and I believe the only way you’d be able to shadow is if you are part of a university internship or clinical rotation program that works with health organizations that use Epic.
That is out of the scope of what I do so your best bet is to go through your university program. Lot’s of hospitals now use Epic or are switching over to it so hopefully that shouldn’t be too hard to do.
There are two roads to Epic certification and unfortunately neither of them involves an individual being able to independently get certification on their own.
You will need to either be currently working for an organization that plans to switch over to Epic and apply for them to send you to get the Epic certification in Wisconsin OR work an agency that provides certified Epic analysts and the agency will pay for you to get the certification.
Epic does not work with individuals one-on-one to get their certification.
Unfortunately there are no such training programs that you as an individual can sign up for to receive Epic Willow (or any other Epic application) training.
The Epic system is somewhat “closed” in that, you have to first be hired by an organization (so a hospital or hospital system) that is going to be implementing Epic or that has Epic already OR you have to be hired by an agency that is contracted with Epic to provide Epic certified analysts as consultants to organizations that need them.
In both cases, once you are hired on, they (as your employers) will then send you to the Epic headquarters in Wisconsin and pay for your Epic certification training.
You can be a pharmacist in any practice setting before that, you just have to find an organization that is willing to invest in your certification and in exchange, you work for them for usually a defined amount of time.
- Residency: No
- Graduate: Pharm.D
- Experience: Hospital, drug information, home infusion, retail, medication reconciliation, ambulatory pharmacy case management, IT, research (I job hop a LOT and rarely stay in one position for more than 3 years)
I’ve found that having many different jobs, contrary to what people say, has actually been helpful in proving to potential employers that I am very easily adaptable to new practice settings, work environments, and types of work.
- How to become an Epic Analyst: You have to be certified in an Epic application. The really good thing is that there are multiple Epic applications that a pharmacist can be certified in e.g. Willow, Beacon, Ambulatory, etc.
- Can you complete the study and certification alone: Unfortunately not. You will need to be sponsored by a company, either a hospital or an agency that provides consultants as contractors to hospitals
Congratulations on your upcoming interview… It’s quite a ride but hopefully you’ll enjoy it.
I’m not sure what stage in the interview process you’re in but if you are at the very beginning stages, they will probably give you the Epic screening test which is a combination test that assesses your language skills, math skills, as well as critical thinking skills test. Epic uses your performance on this screening test to determine if you will be appropriate for an analyst position. If you get through that successfully (and really, only the Epic folks can determine that as it is not really a pass-fail exam), then you should be good to move forward if the organization you’re interviewing with thinks you’ll be a good fit for them.
Please note that this first exam is not the certification exam, but rather, it’s a screening exam/test.
I came across this site while researching pharmacist Willow analyst positions. I’ve been an Informatics pharmacist for 8 years. I have only worked as an IT pharmacist in the pharmacy department, not the IT department. I recently left my job at a hospital that was implementing Epic due to a long commute. I started a new job as an Informatics pharmacist within the pharmacy department at a hospital 4 miles from my house about 4 months ago. This hospital has had Epic for 3 years. The job so far has not been a great fit.
One of my issues is that I feel very powerless to fix problems. As an IT pharmacist in pharmacy, the staff usually comes to me first with their problems. I troubleshoot them and if I think the problem is related to Willow I put in a ticket with the help desk and I work with the Willow team in IT. Overall, I feel like I’m just putting in tickets for other people and not able to actually fix anything myself.
The Willow team at the hospital I’m currently at just had 2 openings. They are looking for pharmacists. I am already Epic certified in Willow (certified in 2016) but haven’t had much experience working on the back-end of the system because of my role. Most of my experience on the back-end has been through the Willow project and exam for certification and what I’ve learned via working directly with the Willow team.
Here are my questions:
I have been afraid to make the switch from IT pharmacist in the pharmacy department to IT pharmacist in the IT department. I am worried about life-work balance. It seems like the Willow analysts in IT (at both my previous job and my current job) work long hours. I left my long commute at my previous job so that I could spend more time with my family. I feel like if I move over to the IT department, I would just be trading my long commute for long hours.
- Has that been your experience as a Willow analyst?
- Do you feel you have life-work balance?
- Are you on-call often for work?
- Are you still satisfied with your job after being in your role for over a year?
- Do you get a chance to work on interesting projects or are you mostly working the ticket desk?
I’m afraid of being stuck in a job where I just work a ticket queue and don’t get to use my pharmacist skills to work on meaningful projects.
Thank you for your time!
Wow… Okay, let’s break this down.
First off, thank you so much for giving me all that background… I love it! You and I have a similar career path trajectories 🙂 I too was in Medical Informatics for about 6 years prior to moving over to the Epic side. I totally understand you leaving the job because of the commute, I also have had to do that once, nothing beats cutting down on a commute that cuts into your life in a significant way.
Here’s where our situations differ… Whereas the hospital you moved to already had Epic in place for 3 years prior to your move, mine was on the front-end of the switchover when I joined the Epic team so I came in at the very beginning and I think I made a HUGE difference. Here’s why:
- After getting certified we immediately started the Epic build and implementation which involved working very closely with the team from Epic in Wisconsin
- You only get that much hands-on help when your hospital is first implementing Epic
- Following the active build and implementation phase, I’ve been in a “support” role for the end-users (basically, I would be the one you’d open the ticket with, per your statement above :))
- Even though we are out of the active building phase, we still have a contact person at Epic on the technical side that we can reach out to for help with technical issues we (the Epic Willow pharmacists) can’t fix or need help figuring out
- At our hospital, we also have a team of clinical informatics folks, including pharmacists, but they are not on the technical/IT side, just like you and we interact with them more on the clinical side, when it comes to things like building clinical and medication order sets
- I assume that’s the role you have in your current hospital though I don’t know how much the Epic Willow team involves you as opposed to end users just reporting problems to you
I completely understand how difficult it can be to do anything significant on the Epic side when your only exposure is the project and the certification exam… That’s because, what you learn with those is just really the tip of the tip of the Epic iceberg… Seriously…
But I digress, in response to your specific questions, here are my answers:
- Long work hours and work-life balance: if your Epic team is spending long hours at work 3 years after going live with Epic, then someone might not have built something quite right. That’s not to say that there’s no work to be done, but at my hospital we pretty much keep daytime working hours ~ 8am-4pm/9am-5pm. Yes… Some days are busier than others, but no one os working 10-hr or 12-hr or longer days… Plus, we even get to telecommute because a lot of our work can be done remotely and that’s a big plus!
- Being on-call: yes… That’s just a reality of the job because hospitals are open 24-7 and being on the IT team, if something breaks, we have to be available to fix it, regardless of what time it breaks, especially when patient safety is at stake. Now, is being on-call a frequent thing…? Yes and no… In the beginning yes, but as the team has grown there are now more people to spread the call schedule over and so it is less frequent. Basically, if each person takes one week of call, then call comes around every X number of weeks as there are people on the team. It’s possible that your team might decide to break call up into smaller chunks, like each person do 2 or 3 days at a time, but that will mean that it will come around more often than if it is done in 1-week chunks.
- The benefit of shorter call is that if your hospital is super busy, then you only have to deal with the craziness of call for a few days.
- Job satisfaction: yes… absolutely! That’s because the job has evolved… From building to now supporting end-users and supporting them means dealing with a lot of troubleshooting different types of problems and trying to figure things out. If you like puzzles or things like that then you’ll really like being in support/maintenance mode. Some days are crazy, if and when something major or unusual happens; other days are quiet and slow, when all is going smoothly and running like a well-oiled machine.
- Working on interesting projects vs. just working on tickets: most definitely I get to work on various projects because now that the software is in and up and running, people are constantly thinking up ways to make what they do easier and better and that equates to a constant flow of optimization projects. These projects aren’t just within the pharmacy nucleus, but also involve other teams as well from time-to-time, be it nursing staff, oncology and radiology departments, even to the folks in billing and medical records.
- Of course, I am sure this will also depend on how progressive (or not) your particular hospital and management is.
I hope this has been helpful to you and that if you do decide to move over to the IT side, I hope it will be as interesting and fulfilling as my experience on the IT has been and will afford you the opportunity to have a great balance between your life outside of work and your life at the office.
But remember, your job cannot give you the work-life balance you need or desire, you have to create that for yourself and I’m sure you can do that 😉
I stumbled on your website while looking for epic certification for pharmacist. Would you be available to speak with me about your journey? I am looking to do this also.
Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to reach out. I’m happy to answer your questions but I’d like to help others that may have the same questions as well by responding to them on this Q&A page so please feel free to ask away and I’ll post my response(s) right here! 🙂
Thank you for the info. Im currently working as a pharmacist but not feeling the reward and fulfilling from the job anymore. I’m always interested in Info Tech. I wish I did my bachelor’s in healthcare IT instead of Bio. I need some career advises to transition into healthcare IT as a pharmacist. Any advises are highly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
First off, don’t despair… Even without having done a Bachelor’s in Healthcare IT and doing one in biology (or any other degree for that matter), doesn’t mean that you can’t transition over into into that practice setting. I don’t have a degree in anything computer or technology-related, just a Pharm.D, and I’ve been able to do it successfully.
I firmly believe that transitioning is a matter of the right timing, being open to sometimes making some compromises along the way (specifically, taking a little bit of a pay cut temporarily before working your way back up). I did that and my current pay now slightly surpasses that of the clinical pharmacists at my facility as I am now a part of IT. And of course, just a little bit of luck.
Don’t lock yourself in a box. If you’re looking for an Epic Willow pharmacist job, consider looking in the IT section of job listings on Craigslist or Indeed, not just the Medical section.
Also, don’t forget that Epic does have competitors like Cerner and Meditech, so be on the lookout for such positions as well. They also use pharmacists, especially those who have had experience using their software.
Hopefully, that gives you some small steps to start taking… When you do, please come back and let me know what worked and what didn’t and perhaps I can share some more info then 🙂
I recently accepted a position as a Epic Willow pharmacist in the IT dept.
My background: pharmacist, certified medical technologist, 3 yrs experience with Meditech/Misys, and 3 years with Epic Beaker, Willow, and Beacon with Super User experience prior to go-live. Recruiter contact/request for project management position at Epic.
The new position that I am entering into is something new for me, but one I am passionate about learning as I love a challenge and to learn/teach. I also enjoy learning about programming and have been learning about programming languages on my own.
I like to learn as much as I can in addition to what I will learn on-the-job and at training. Thanks in advance for any insight.
First off, congratulations on your new position! Get ready for a “wild” ride, and of course I mean that in the best possible way 😉
i can tell from your varied background and experience why you’d make a good Epic Willow pharmacist, as I’ve said before on the blog, contrary to what lots of people say about doing many different things in your career, it IS a good thing and employers view that as a type of flexibility that means you’re easily adaptable to change, and that’s always a plus in the eyes of any employer.
Initially you’ll rely very heavily on your Epic-assigned technical support staff person but as time goes by, and without your realizing it, you will start to learn and pick up so much information that you’ll be self-sustaining for the most part and eventually only need your personal Epic support person for the really major technical problems.
You’ll definitely be learning on the job, there’s no way around that when it comes to Epic but the resources they provide to help you along are phenomenal.
I was wondering what Epic tracks you got certified in? I’m getting certified in Epic Willow Inpatient and was wondering if there are other tracks you recommend in the future?
Currently, just Willow… There are actually two Willow certifications you can get, Willow Inpatient and Willow Ambulatory. As you are probably already aware, Willow Inpatient is for the inpatient pharmacy system while Willow Ambulatory is the software application used in outpatient and retail pharmacy settings.
They are very very different, at least, right now they are.
Most people only think of the inpatient module when then name “Willow” is mentioned, so there might be some confusion there and some education that needs to happen from time to time.
One module alone is a lot to handle and takes a good 2-3 implementations from scratch, or at least 28-24 months of working in maintenance to really get a good solid grasp on.
If you’re just starting out I would say, first of all, get really good and comfortable with Willow Inpatient. The next closest related module to that one that I’d recommend for you is Beacon, which is the oncology application. There are some interconnections you’ll come across between the two and that’s another application, in addition to the two Willow applications that has a strong pharmacy/pharmacist component.
If you plan to move out of the inpatient setting altogether, then and only then would I recommend moving on to the Willow Ambulatory application.
I hope that’s helpful to you Eunice, please do drop by again if you have any additional questions and good luck on your new journey into the world of Epic! 🙂
I’m requesting information on getting Epic or Cerner Certified as a trainer.
I’ve been in the pharmaceutical field for twenty years. I travel now as a contract pharm tech. I want to explore a new avenue of pharmacy, which is IT. I’ve worked in all genre areas of pharmacy, such as: Oncology/Nuclear, LTC, Retail, MD Office Infusion Center, Home Infusion, Hospital (in-patient), and Preceptor/Trainer/Lead Tech.
I want something more rewarding and supportive for my family.
I can’t really speak about anything related to Cerner as I don’t have that experience, but regarding Epic certification, here goes…
Becoming an Epic trainer is another great way to get plugged into the Epic system that most people don’t initially consider. Just to make things clear, there are three roles you can you function in within the world of Epic. In the simplest terms, they are:
- Analyst/Builder – in this role you are building the backend systems and infrastructure for the applications that your end users will be working with.
- Instructional Designer – in this role you are creating all the training materials that will be used to train the end users within the Epic classrooms for your end users. The instructional designers are also responsible for training the trainers.
- Certified Trainer – in this role you are responsible for the hands-on training of the end users
The requirements to be an Instructional Designer (ID) and a Certified Trainer (CT) vary from organization to organization however, Epic does make recommendations on what requirements they should have and each organization has the freedom to adopt them or modify them to meet their own individual needs.
Specifically, an organization may choose to either require their ID to become fully certified (just like an analyst/builder would be) or to be proficient (which means they have fewer requirements to meet than is required for certification).
My thoughts: If you’re required to be certified to become an ID, then just go ahead and be an analyst… You’ll typically make more money. Please note, this is just my opinion…
CTs need to achieve proficiency within their application, they do not typically get certified but will have to pass an “observation-type” live performance test, usually conducted by the ID, before they can start training on their own.
The fact that you’re used to traveling for work is a plus because if you have a hard time finding Epic work locally, you can quite easily find a travel position. The good thing about these travel Epic jobs is that you can often request to travel only 50% of the time… And if you’re really good, you might be able to work out a 75-100% remote/telecommute setup. Yes, it’s very possible.
Another thing that you have working in your favor is that since you have worked in other medical fields outside of pharmacy, you are more likely to get opportunities to train for applications outside of Willow… Based on your past experience, I would recommend that you keep your options open to the following applications >> Home Health & Hospice, Beacon (the oncology module), Ambulatory (outpatient MD clinics), Inpatient Orders/Clinical Documentation (inpatient medicine).
I hope this has been helpful to you and best of luck!!
I’d love to hear how things work out for you 🙂
I am a PharmD with 15 plus years of experience in a wide range of pharmacy settings.
I am interested in gaining experience in the specialty compliance regulations field. How can I best find, and secure an entry level position in order to eventually work long term in this area?
Getting into the field of pharmacy compliance and regulatory affairs quite honestly does not have a specific formula. The best advice I can give is to recommend that you directly visit the websites for the government agencies in your local area – city, county, and state – and watch their job boards for pharmacist positions that come available.
That’s exactly how I did it.
If you’re lucky you might catch a posting for one of these on Indeed.com but these government positions usually have finite open filing periods and you must make sure you’re vigilant and apply during those windows. The government hardly ever budges so if you miss one filing period then you have to wait until the next one opens up.
The good thing about these positions is that they tend to hire pharmacists that have a good number of years experience under their belt (they usually aren’t all into the whole “you must have a residency” thing, so don’t fret if you don’t have one).
Also, I’ve seen a recent new development where certain organizations are offering certificates or certification programs in pharmacy compliance and regulatory affairs.
I cannot vouch for any of these. I have never done any of these even though I have held two full time regulatory positions (and currently consult on the side) in pharmacy compliance and have never once took a course in it. It was all on-the-job learning.
However, if you’d like to take one of these courses just to take it and learn more, that’s fine, I have nothing against them.
However, in my own experience, having any of these certificates has never been a requirement or even a “plus/nice to have” for any of the compliance jobs I’ve ever had.
Just remember, most regulatory and compliance positions tend to be with government agencies and government agencies in general tend to move slowly, so start your search now and just be patient.
Please check back in and let me know how things are going!
My name is Yibeltal, a pharmacy student graduating May 2018 I am very interested in learning about the opportunities a pharmacist have as a health informatics. Especially, what are the paths to get to that level? As a student I need to know the options to get to that level.
I would really appreciate if you share your experience.
First off, congratulations on almost being done with your degree. That’s no small accomplishment 🙂
There are different paths that you can follow in order to get into the Health Informatics field. The path I took is quite different from that of some of my counterparts so do bear in mind that how you individually get there may not be identical to anyone else’s journey, but you can get there nonetheless.
For me, the truth is that I literally fell into it… I happened to be at the right place at the right time to take advantage of an opportunity that presented itself, and while my fellow pharmacists didn’t all think as far outside the box as I did, I was willing to take a chance on parlaying my medical/pharmacy background into the IT world.
On the other hand, I worked with people who followed the track of getting Masters Degrees in Health Informatics. They studied the theories in school but we all learned the hands-on techniques on the job.
Did having a degree in Health Informatics give them an advantage or an edge over me or others who didn’t…? I don’t think so, but no knowledge is ever lost and the truth is that their learning curve may have been slightly less steep than say mine, but it was nothing significant.
So, is going the route of getting more education for you or are you willing to keep your eyes open for potential opportunities as they come your way?
My advice: Unless you’re really itching to add another degree to your toolbelt, focus on keeping your eyes open for opportunities that come your way. They’re out there… You just have to be paying close attention.
I am a Pharmacist working in a hospital for the last 7 years. We are about to switch to Epic.
My hospital wants to train just one pharmacist for certification and this happens to be our current IT pharmacist. I am interested in using this opportunity to get certification.
I will like to ask my hospital to refer me for training and I will pay for it, but was wondering how much this might cost. Any thoughts on cost?
Unfortunately, the fact is that Epic does not do business with individuals. Your organization has to be the one to send you for training at Epic and you cannot, as an individual, pay for your own training.
I also don’t really have an idea of what the cost is because the organization will typically factor in the cost of your transportation to and from the Epic headquarters in Wisconsin, plus your food and lodging, etc.
Your best bet is to hope that they decide to send you in addition to the one person that they are sending or find an organization that will.
As far as your own organization, it is not practical for one person to be the only Epic certified analyst for your entire organization so you might want to consider making the case that they will need to send more than one person for Epic certification training.
I’d love to hear how things pan out for you!
I am a Foreign Pharmacy Graduate, passed NAPLEX and have 1500 hours of internship.
I do not have an active pharmacist license. I’d like to know whether I am still eligible to become Epic informatics pharmacist?
Please do advice.
Congratulations on passing the FPGEE exam as well as the NAPLEX and for getting in your 1,500 internship hours… Wow… You’ve been busy!
Regarding whether or not you are eligible to become an Epic Informatics Pharmacist, the simple answer is “No”.
Without a pharmacist license, you will not be able to get any job that requires a licensed pharmacist.
However…. Having said that, there are some organization that do not require a pharmacist to be their Epic analysts so if you were to apply for an IT/Epic analyst position with them, then not having your pharmacist license may not be an issue.
If an organization requires a licensed pharmacist, then you might not be in the running. You could try to show that you have a foreign pharmacy degree and have passed the above exams, but not having an actual license in any of the 50 U.S. states may be a showstopper for you.
Good luck and please let us know if things pan out the way you want them to.
My name is Aniya and I’m a 4th-year pharmacy student at Xavier University of Louisiana.
I want to know if you could provide me with any tips on how to break into the world of IT pharmacy. I have a sudden interest but I don’t know where to start.
Congratulations…! You’re almost at the finish line and now is a great time to start thinking about which pharmacy career path you would like to pursue.
Quite honestly, there is/are no special tips I can offer you about getting into IT other than to just apply for positions as they come open.
What I will tell you though, is that you should be willing to think outside the box when you search job postings. One thing I did/do when looking for new positions is to not limit myself to searhcing for the standard “clinical pharmacist” or “consultant pharmacist” or plain “pharmacist” positions.
Doing so will only keep you in that standard pharmacist and you will just be competing with everyone else who isn’t willing to go a step further.
Do some keyword research… That’s right, you almost never hear that when you’re being taught how to do a job search. But you need to figure out what terms HR recruiters and IT hiring managers use to describe the people they are looking for, other than “pharmacist”, even though being a pharmacist is a requirement.
For instance, in the world of Epic, an Epic Willow Pharmacist position can also be titled “Epic Willow Analyst” and in the job description, you’d find a requirement for a Pharm.D. It would be very easy to miss such a posting if you didn’t know what job title to search for right?
Therefore, my tip for you would be to peruse the career section of various healthcare IT companies and see what job titles they use then take it from there. other good places to look are Indeed and even Craigslist! Just narrow your search down to the broader “healthcare IT” categories/sections and then start browsing.
I hope that helps…
Good luck and let me know how it goes!
I’m a pharmacy student graduating in 6 months and I wanted to get your opinion on what I’m planning on doing.
I’ve only worked in an independent pharmacy for the past few years and don’t have any inpatient experience at the moment. However, I really want to become an IT pharmacist like you one day and am thinking about applying for “pharmacy application analyst” jobs online.
A few of them do say they prefer a licensed pharmacist so it might work out but I would have to be trained/sponsored by them to get the willow certification. Residency is not what I want to do as I’d rather gain hands-on experience in those first 1-2 years preparing my way to becoming an IT pharmacist.
Your feedback on any of what I shared would be appreciated and if you have any other suggestions for me I’d love that also. Thank you in advance and have a great one 🙂
You’re almost done… Good for you!
Here’s the first piece of good news I have for you… Having experience in an independent pharmacy only is not necessarily a bad thing. That’s because Epic now has a retail pharmacy application called “Epic Willow Ambulatory” which is not only for outpatient pharmacies in hospitals but also CVS pharmacy (and I think I heard Walgreens too maybe) have purchased it to use on their retail pharmacies.
So, whereas in the past, IT pharmacists were considered a predominantly inpatient pharmacist opportunity, that is no longer true.
it is true that a lot of employers require pharmacist licensure so you should definitely plan on getting your license once you graduate. It will also ensure that you get paid as an IT pharmacist, rather just an unlicensed IT analyst. Your pharmacy degree counts for a lot.
Yes, it is true that an organization has to sponsor your Epic certification so once you get an offer for such a position the next step will be for them to pay for and send you to get the training required for your certification.
Regarding getting a residency, I won’t officially say that you don’t need one, but I will say this… I don’t have a residency and none of the other IT pharmacists I work with have one either. Also, when my organization hires for Epic Willow Pharmacist positions, having a residency is neither a requirement nor a “nice to have”… It isn’t even mentioned in the job requisitions, so hopefully that’s more good news for you 😉
Please let me know how things go!
PS: Check out the tips I gave to Aniya in the response above on how to find these types of IT pharmacist positions.
I’m Elliott, an IT pharmacist in Rancho Mirage, CA.
We are 6 month Epic Willow users, and are still troubleshooting. We receive and allow requests from Medical Staff for “non-formulary” meds which we have been adding to our central medication list, and do not green dot them.
Is there a way to identify these as non-formulary at order entry to prevent users from randomly ordering?
Thank you for your question. The first thing I’d like to say is that this is a perfect question for your Epic TS and because different organizations set up their med lists differently, what I might tell you may not be how your particular organization has chosen to do things.
What I can say is that we green dot our formulary meds and add them to a preference list and those meds populate first when physicians are placing orders. If an end user wants to order a medication that isn’t on the preference list, they will have to do a Database Lookup and that in and of itself is an additional step that will flag the user to know that the medication is not on formulary.
I hope that helps. 🙂
PS: Check out the tips I gave to Aniya in the response above on how to find these types of IT pharmacist positions.
I’m so glad I found your site that’s all about your experience as an EPIC pharmacist. Honestly a year ago, I didn’t even know this field existed until I stumbled upon a few LinkedIn profiles of pharmacists that stated they were EPIC certified.
I’m going to graduate in 2019 and I would highly be interested in getting exposure to this field. Do you know of any healthcare companies or locations that would allow a student to shadow them for the day? Just to get a feel of what goes on in a day to day of a pharmacist who works in the IT department?
Congratulations on your upcoming graduation… I know it’s still about a year away but you’re almost at the finish line! 🙂
Yes… Epic certification for pharmacists IS a thing. Primarily, pharmacists get certified in the Willow and Beacon applications. Willow is the software for pharmacy dispensing and inventory management (both outpatient and inpatient) and Beacon is the oncology module.
Your best bet for getting exposure to the IT practice of pharmacy is to seek out organizations where they have pharmacy informaticists. I say that because it’s hard to shadow someone in IT if the IT department is not plugged into the clinical training program, whereas when you have clinical informaticists who are pharmacists, it’s much easier for a pharmacy student to be allowed to shadow a pharmacist than an IT analyst… the Epic-certified pharmacists are usually considered IT analysts/IT pharmacists.
Now, most clinical informaticists will work closely with the IT pharmacists and that will be your segue into their world.
I hope this little “puzzle” makes sense and helps you to see how you can possibly get some exposure to the world of IT pharmacy as a student.
I am a PGY1 trained and BCPS certified recent graduate and am currently in a rotating clinical position in a hospital setting. My hospital is getting ready to switch to Epic, and the department will be sending some staff members to be Epic certified for the rollout.
I have read through your posts and Q&A and have found it very informative. I had one question that I don’t think was touched upon.
I do not have any formal IT training (coding languages etc.) I am, however, relatively computer proficient (build computers, software setup, general use) and am able to pick up new things easy. Do you think that not having any formal IT training will preclude me from being able to make the most of Epic certification and transitioning to consulting? Or is the training and on-the-job learning enough?
Thanks for any help or insight, apologies if this was brought up and I missed it
Thanks for your question.
Not having any formal IT training in any coding languages does NOT preclude you from being able to make the most of most Epic certifications. I stress the word “most” because if you are solely focusing on getting certified in any of the Willow applications i.e. Willow Inpatient, Willow Ambulatory, and/or Willow Inventory (you must first be certified in either Willow Inpatient or Ambulatory in order to qualify for Willow Inventory certification, by the way), then you do not need any formal coding experience. The same goes for the Beacon application (that’s the oncology module and the other application that has a pharmacy component to it).
Now, having said that… If you decide you want to broaden your Epic certification and become what is referred to as the Application Reporting Lead (ARL), this is the point person for each Epic application that is also responsible for creating reports for the end-users of their application. So for example, if you’re the ARL for Willow, you’d also be responsible for creating reports that the pharmacy managers can use to assess compliance with regulatory standards or reports to help gauge where money is being spent and if the returns are up to what the organization desires. You’d also be creating reports that the pharmacy technicians can run to find which meds have not been picked up within a given period of time in an outpatient pharmacy so that they can be returned to stock.
The ARL goes through an additional certification to learn how to create these and a plethora of other reports and here is where knowing certain other coding languages, particularly something like SQL and other database languages will come in extremely helpful. The certification process for the reporting module does include a cursory course in coding but having an in-depth knowledge beforehand will certainly give you a leg up.
So to summarize the answer to your question… If you are only interested in strictly being a pharmacist analyst with certification in just a Willow or Beacon application, then no, you don’t need to know any coding. The Epic certification itself as well as hands-on training you’ll get, especially if you are part of the initial implementation team when your organization switches over to Epic will be quite enough to get you up and running and get you to an eventual point of full proficiency.
However, if you anticipate that you’d like to take on more responsibilities (and possibly more pay because you’ll have the additional value to add) by becoming the Application Reporting Lead, then yes, it would not hurt, and might even behoove you to study a coding language, and I would recommend that you start with SQL.
Then in the long run, having a PharmD as well as both the certification in a pharmacy module and the reporting module will set you farther apart from the crowd (it’s getting a lot more competitive these days), give you more bargaining power when it comes to consulting work and put you in a higher income bracket than others without this trifecta.
It’s very doable, and I wish you the best!
I just found your blog and I’m so glad because we are about to implement EPIC and I feel glad that I have the opportunity to be here at this time. I have been working as a BA to document the current workflows in Pharmacy.
Will it be profitable for me to go for certification in the Willow module seeing that I am not a Pharmacist? Also what career path does that portend for me?
Can you send me any materials I can read to learn about the Willow module?
Thanks a lot.
Thank you for your message and questions. I am not sure what the “BA” role you are doing currently is but if you choose to get the Epic certification, then understanding pharmacy workflows will be invaluable. I have seen non-pharmacists who have gotten certified in both Willow Inpatient and Willow Ambulatory and been successful (some have not been able to pass the exam but then again, I have also seen some pharmacists who were not able to pass the certification exam either). So the bottom line is, being a pharmacist is not a sure ticket to success as an Epic Willow Analyst and not being a pharmacist does not mean that one cannot succeed in getting certified in the Epic Willow module 🙂
Hopefully, that gives you some hope.
Regarding sending learning materials for the Willow module, unfortunately, per the Epic guidelines, I am not allowed to share their study materials as that is considered their proprietary information. You must go through the proper channels for getting certified or proficient in their applications before you can have access to the materials they offer and even then, those will be given to you directly through and from Epic.
I hope things work out in your favor.
I came across your blog as I was searching information on an epic application analyst position. A recruiter contacted me for the said position for the hospital’s pharmacy department and I really have no idea what it is all about. I actually am a registered pharmacist, but a foreign grad with a bachelors degree. I only have experience as a tech and as an intern, but not really as a pharmacist (and still actively looking for an RPh job).
From what I have researched, you don’t really need to be a pharmacist to actually become one. I am just quite iffy if I should pursue it because recruiters have contacted me mostly for tech positions, and this position which I’m being recruited for might not actually be a pharmacist job. And the reason why I became interested about this position is because whenever I look up for hospital pharmacist positions, I would usually see epic certification as a requirement.
So my question is, would you be able to differentiate each analyst job? And if the aforementioned position is not a pharmacist job, will there be an opportunity to move up as an IT pharmacist based on my background?
I know my questions are dumb and confusing, but I hope you could help me out. I will also clarify any confusions with my recruiter before the onsite interview.
Thank you so much for the time.
First off, there are no dumb questions. One of my main reasons for starting this site was to answer all these unanswered questions and to provide these answers from firsthand experience and an unbiased source.
Yes, you can work as an Epic Willow Analyst without being a pharmacist but what you can and will be allowed to do will be limited because non-pharmacists are typically not allowed to perform any tasks that require clinical judgment and when you are working on building out a drug dictionary based on evidence-based clinical guidelines, a pharmacy technician will not typically have the appropriate clinical training to work on such a project.
This is just one example of where not being a licensed pharmacist will be a limitation to what you can do as an Epic Willow Analyst.
Also, if you get the position but are not licensed as a pharmacist, even though you have a pharmacy degree, you will not be paid as a pharmacist (which is significantly more than a pharmacy technician) and without a license, even with Epic certification, you will not be able to get any job as an actual pharmacist.
Getting your pharmacist license is highly essential if you want any job that requires a pharmacist. Unfortunately, a degree alone, whether foreign or domestic, is not sufficient.
Here’s my take, and this is just my own humble opinion… If you have to prioritize what to do and when, I would suggest that you first focus on getting your license as a pharmacist then focus next on getting Epic certified. If you do it in that order, so many more doors and opportunities will be open to you.
Also, please note that getting Epic certification is not a requirement for getting a regular pharmacist job in a hospital pharmacy. They might ask that you have experience using the Epic software, perhaps at a previous job, but certainly not that you be Epic certified to work as a regular staff or clinical pharmacist.
I hope this has been helpful to you… I wish you the best of luck with everything!
Thank you for responding to my email. I actually am already licensed as a pharmacist in the state where I reside. I am already done doing my sphinx test by the way and I passed it. So for instance I get an interview (hopefully) and I bring that up, will there be a chance that probably they can take me in as an IT pharmacist? Or will it hurt my chances since as far as I know, they would require a PGY-2 residency or at least masters in health informatics?
Thank you so much once again!
Hi again Crimson!
Thank you for the clarification and congratulations on passing the Sphinx test! 🙂
Sidebar: I remember taking the Sphinx test and halfway through thinking “Well… There go my Epic dreams and dreams of getting certified…”
I can tell you from my own personal experience that not having done a residency and not holding a Masters degree in Health Informatics were not barriers to me becoming an IT pharmacist. During interviews, I was always able to make a case for hiring me based on my past experience and my ability to adapt easily to new technologies and learn new skills with ease. (PS: you can borrow that line when you go on the interview for the position 😉 )
So, don’t let either of those be a reason you don’t go for what you want to pursue in healthcare IT. Just be sure you can and do back up what you say when you do get the job 🙂
I’d love to hear how it goes!