Okay, it’s time to get 100% real and talk about the career advancement options for Epic Willow pharmacists.
If you have your Epic Willow certification in hand and you have even an ounce of ambition, sooner or later, you’re going to ask yourself this…
What ARE the career advancement options for Epic Willow pharmacists like me?
Even if you’re thrilled to bits with your current job situation and can’t see yourself doing anything else, believe you me, these thoughts will eventually start popping into your mind. At first sporadically, and then over time, they’ll become more consistent.
If you don’t have them now, then bookmark this post and come back to it when you do. But if you’re already toying with these ideas, then read on…
So… What, if any, career advancement options can you expect down the road now that you hold the almighty Epic certification?
Well, I can’t speak for every organization globally, but I can tell you what my experience and observations have been at my own organization and from talking with a handful of other analysts at different organizations.
Depending on your IT management team, including your IT pharmacy department management, your options and the outlook of your career could range from bleak and static to laterally fluid to upwardly mobile in unique directions.
I know that all sounds vague so I’ll break each of those down.
Bleak & Static
Unfortunately, it’s altogether possible and very likely that once you pass through the initial Epic build and go-live phase and are firmly planted in the maintenance phase then things will start to get static.
Your work days will primarily consist of responding to calls and fixing tickets submitted by end users.
Ticket: A ticket is basically a system that your pharmacy staff will use to log/report problems they’re having with Epic and you troubleshoot the issues and figure out how to fix them. That’s pretty much it.
That’s not to say that fixing tickets is always easy and smooth sailing, some of the technical issues that end users might run into could end up being behemoth problems no one ever anticipated, while others might just require simple and quick fixes… Perhaps because someone forgot to switch one little thing on or off on the backend (the part you’ll primarily be working in) in the Epic system.
Truth: Coming right off the hectic and frenzied pace of an Epic build and go-live, you’ll be happy to get into the maintenance phase because it’s a LOT less stressful.
Also, because you’ll know the Epic Willow system inside and out, you’ll be very comfortable answering questions form the pharmacy staff and helping them get past hurdles they encounter as they get used to using the system in their new regular workflows.
But when the itch to advance comes, you might find that the only non-lateral move you can make is becoming a manager within your Pharmacy IT department. There is really not much of a hierarchical system within the Epic Analyst world.
If you’re at a point in your life where having a predictable and stable job and work situation is what you need, then you’ll be all set… Go to work everyday, work the tickets in your queue, attend necessary meetings, etc.
Just ride the wave and enjoy the ride.
Stay current with your certification updates and new version trainings (don’t worry, Epic will tell you when they’re due), and that’s it.
Some organizations will allow you to get certified in other Epic modules so if you get tired of working as a Willow Analyst, you can try out something else.
The other popular Epic module that pharmacists are needed for is Beacon. Beacon is the oncology module and you probably already know that oncology pharmacy is a field onto itself so it all makes sense.
Another module that uses pharmacists and for which pharmacists are particularly sought out for is the Home Health. This is a relatively new module and it has a pharmacy component that you could do well in.
Other clinical modules that pharmacists may be well-suited for are:
- EpicCare Ambulatory, this module primarily supports physicians on the outpatient clinics side and all the ordering they do for ambulatory patients i.e. e-prescribing
- EpicCareOrders, this module supports physicians on the inpatient side and creating order sets for inpatient dispensing
The Ambulatory and Orders modules tend to be more heavily populated by nurses but different organizations may be open to creative staffing and forming hybrid teams that leverage different subject matter experts.
You can check out my not-exhaustive list of other Epic modules here.
Your Epic Willow certification is and can be a very valuable tool in your professional arsenal. With your experience as an Epic analyst, you’re firmly planted in the healthcare IT world and you can parlay your technical know-how into other jobs.
It’s going to take some creativity and a lot of elbow grease and most importantly, you’re going to have to know how to sell your skills and knowledge to new potential employers.
You can’t just rely on job postings on public job boards like Indeed, this is going to take some networking and schmoozing on your part. I know that’s not something that most pharmacists are used to doing but it doesn’t have to be a big formal production.
Start with LinkedIn.
If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, stop reading this post right now and go and set one up immediately, then come bak here and continue reading.
Just having your IT experience from Epic and putting that in your profile is going to put you on the radar of healthcare IT recruiters and this puts you in the driver’s seat when they start reaching out to you.
Granted, some (most, actually) of these recruiters will be completely useless to you in the long run but when the right one comes along, the one who isn’t just looking to add more pharmacists to their portfolio to call upon when they are all scrambling to fill same positions as other healthcare IT recruiters, you’ll know it.
Make sure your profile uses keywords that pertain to your clinical experience as well as your IT experience and that’s when you’ll start to get contacted by employers who have positions that require clinical pharmacists with a good handle on technical and IT stuff.
Believe me, they’re out there, I know this because I’m in the process of finalizing a transition to one of these types of positions. You’ll of course be able to read about it right here on the blog 🙂
There’s an art and science to creating an efficient LinkedIn profile and it would really benefit you to take the time to figure it out. I read a book that helped guide me when I was creating my own LinkedIn profile, I’ll link to it and some others you can choose from below.
This is the first LinkedIn book I read (I liked it because I wanted to learn how to market myself on the platform, not just create another bland profile):
If you’re on the brink of making a career transition or just thinking about it right now, I’d love to hear about your journey and how things are going for you. Leave me a comment below and let’s talk!
Another area for growth…infusion device interoperability. I’m a pump database librarian and my Willow partner was my new BFF for our year of preparation and implementation. We just wrapped it up…onward, toward optimizing!
This is a whole separate ball of wax for sure. Getting Epic to work with infusion devices, automated dispensing machines, etc. is a whole are of niche practice that most organizations end up having to put resources towards. It also provides a great opportunity for Epic analysts who are willing to learn and grow in this field.
Thank you for mentioning that 🙂