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 😉