In my current role with Erlanger Health Systems I’m an applications analyst. I have 11 certifications! I’ve trained many of the outpatient and inpatient modules of EPIC, a program for electronically organizing patient information all in one place.
EPIC’s motto is one patient, one record.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad is an estimator for a construction company. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I started college. I thought business would be something more general that I could study. But my freshman year of college I took a psychology class and I fell in love with psychology. It’s such an interesting subject and something that we’re constantly learning more and more about. I think that’s why I like doing what I do now because what I do is constantly evolving too. I like to learn.
I applied to graduate school and I was going to take the clinical counseling route. I thought maybe I wanted to be a psychologist but I was going to start with clinical counseling and work my way up from there. To get into a better understanding of the field I thought going into social work would be a nice foot in the door. So right out of college I worked with the state of Kentucky in child protective services as the person who did the initial investigations when people called the state about child welfare concerns. When someone called the number for child protective services the person on the phone would do the intake and assessment and then if it was something they felt needed to be followed up on, I would be the person to follow up on it. I was the state’s first point of contact with the child and family. I didn’t have any certification for this work but I did have to go through an extensive program with classes at Eastern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University. I did that job for a little over a year. It takes a very special person to do that work! You’re dealing with people who don’t want your help. You’re not there because they want help but because someone else has called the state to intervene so that’s difficult. There is a lot of anger, resistance and frustration towards you. The job ultimately wasn’t a good fit for me but I still felt passionate about wanting to help people. The job really burned me out. I thought counseling was the route I wanted to go but it really burnt me out and I was ready for something different.
I was not sure what I wanted to do. I was waitressing at this time. I ended up looking at a local hospital to see what sort of jobs were available and landed a job in human resources. The job was as a multi-task associate. But I was very overqualified for that job and they knew it! Basically I was approached while I was doing that job to work on this information technology project, EPIC, they were starting. I’d never heard of EPIC before that. I was game for whatever at that point so that was a big turning point for me because I love what I do now!
The program EPIC has been around for over two decades but when I first started working with it was brand new for the greater Cincinnati area. I’ve been an applications analyst at Erlanger for a year, but I’ve been working with EPIC for almost nine years now. At Mercy Health, my previous job, I was there for six years. I was there from the beginning, basically from the installation of the program. I would have stayed at Mercy but it was intriguing to start ground-up again at another hospital. I heard about a new opportunity to do that work in Tennessee and liked the idea of coming in and doing what I did before from the ground up. Right now I’m an Application Analyst and Team Lead on an inpatient module of EPIC.
I come in and I think I know what I’m going to do and I don’t end up doing that typically! I go in to an office Monday through Friday. You can work remote with this position because you have all the tools you need, but because I’m currently part of implementing a system from the ground up at a new hospital I don’t work remotely that often. I am the only one on my team that has implemented EPIC. As a Team Lead I prefer to be physically present to help with mentoring.
I was a training manager in my previous role at Mercy Health. When I was a training manager I had about 30 people reporting to me directly and probably about 40 people reporting to me indirectly, for training and support. Mercy Health is the second largest employer in Ohio so it’s very large! I worked with Mercy as they implemented the application in seven different regions. I was with them throughout it all. Part of the time I was on the outpatient side with the ambulatory clinic and part of the time I was on the inpatient side. There were 23 hospitals we worked with but they were all able to communicate using the same EPIC instance or version. All the doctors can communicate with each other and have access to the same charts. In addition, in Cincinnati there is Mercy Hospital and also Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital isn’t a part of the Mercy hospital system but they’re on EPIC so a doctor can share information between different EPIC customers. So it’s very cool! Even though doctors may not be on the same version of the program they can still communicate.
There are over 20 different modules for the EPIC software. I currently work with ClinDoc for five hospitals. I’m in charge of ClinDoc but my work touches a lot of the other applications too. When I said I have 11 certifications, they are for 11 different modules including Ambulatory, ClinDoc, Orders and MyChart. For example, if you’re working in the physician offices, the module is called Ambulatory. If you’re working with nurses the module is called ClinDoc for clinical documentation. If you’re working with cardiology the module is Cupid.
It can be very challenging when you’re working with physicians and nurses who have been doing this work in hospitals a certain way their whole life. They know what they’re doing and are very good at their job but then we take the tools they’re used to using and have to teach them to use new tools. Sometimes we’re taking them from using paper to an electronic medical record, or one electronic medical record to EPIC. This can be challenging because I’m working with really smart people who know what they’re doing and then have to give them a tool they’re not used to. There is a learning curve and it can be stressful for everyone. But I like helping people and educating people in this change.
You really are making health care safer for the patient and more efficient for the provider, nurses and the front desk. Right now I’m working with a healthcare system that is implementing EPIC in two phases. Outpatient goes live in May and Inpatient is going live in November. At this stage we’re taking the modules of the EPIC system and we’re doing a gap analysis with what the physician and nurses are doing currently in all the different specialties and how that can translate into EPIC. With this information I’m building pieces of the EPIC system for nurses and physicians working at the hospital to make their life easier! I’m responding to some of the challenges people have in taking on the new system to make it more useful for them. And sometimes EPIC provides a better way to streamline processes and it’s an opportunity to make things work better for everyone in the hospital.
I think a lot of people, especially the physicians and the nurses, think that this is an information technology project. And I know I did say I work in information technology! But it really isn’t. We’re solely here for the providers and patients. This is a clinical project and we’re simply here trying to make healthcare safer and make it easier to share patient’s information between physicians.
I’ve worked at three different health care systems in the past nine years. At every single one there was an emphasis on work/life balance because you do put in a lot of hours during certain times called go live times. Hospitals are open 24 hours so you will occasionally work outside of the normal hours on call. Go live times are when hospitals are implementing the new system. During this time you could be working 12-hour shifts, four or five days in a row. You can take your computer places and login to work at home so work/life balance is something that is an important aspect of the job that everyone understands is needed because you could easily be on the clock all the time. And sometimes you are! If I know I’m going to be working late on a Tuesday than I can leave early on a Wednesday. It’s very easy to do that and that’s one of the things I really like. But I know that’s not always easy for people. I’ve been in a manger role. Right now I’m not a manager but I’m the leader of a team. I’ve always given the impression that making work/life balance is a priority to my team. I’ve told people working for me, “If you feel like you’ve had all you can take today, let me know.”
The dress code is business casual. On Friday’s we can wear jeans if we’re not meeting with anyone from the hospital.
If you want to go into this field know that you will never be an expert at this job! It’s always evolving, always changing. I’ve been working on the system for nine years and I learn something new everyday. But I like that. So if someone likes to master something and know exactly what they’re doing everyday this isn’t a good fit but it’s exciting to me that it’s always changing and there is always more to learn.
I’m doing something very different from what I thought I wanted to do when I went into social work, but the attitude I take is I haven’t wasted any time. I thought I wanted to be a counselor in psychology and that’s something I really enjoyed learning about. I found out that’s not what I like and that’s ok! I roll with the punches. I don’t even think the job I’m doing now was an opportunity when I was in college, you know? And now I love what I do.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique.
Martha Graham, choreographer
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