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Jun 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM · by David Kushan

The Story of 7 IT Pharmacists and How They Got Their Start

A while back, Healthcare IS interviewed seven pharmacists who have successfully transitioned from the role of a traditional inpatient pharmacist to that of an IT or informatics pharmacist. The pharmacists in question are some with whom I’ve developed strong relationships. They’ve all been in IT for more than ten years and have profiles on LinkedIn. The objective of these interviews was to provide insight to pharmacists who are looking to enter this field. The questions were broken down into specific topics on which our firm is regularly asked to comment. We believe these short posts that address specific issues will provide value to pharmacists looking to enter this field.

One of the main questions we are routinely asked is how to get into an IT or informatics role. That said, we put this question to each of our pharmacists.

Although all had slightly different stories, there were a number of similarities. One had strong computer programming skills. Another had an interest in programming. Others had a general interest in ways to capture clinical results in order to incorporate an evidence-based practice. For one who had been a pharmacist for ten years, the new role was a means to use his clinical knowledge in a different way, in order to energize his career as a pharmacist. Ultimately, each had a different reason for taking this career path, which underscores the fact that there is no right or wrong reason to make the change.

On the flip side, there’s one thing that all of the pharmacists had in common: how each was able to get into this career path. Some planned for opportunity, while others came upon it by chance. Either way, they all took advantage of the opportunity to make the transition within their organizations.

This, beyond the seven pharmacists we interviewed, is the #1 way that pharmacists transition into a career of IT/informatics — stepping into a role that’s needed or created within their current place of employment. The fact that each of these pharmacists was “known” and “respected” within their current organizations made them easy selections for newly created roles.

As you’re looking to make this career transition, the biggest challenge you’ll face is simply “getting your foot in the door.” These pharmacists were lucky enough to have their current organizations create new roles, so they were able to step in and get paid at the same time.

Today, the marketplace for IT/informatics pharmacists is more mature than it was ten years ago. When an organization creates one of these new roles, they look at their internal pharmacy staff before considering bringing in someone from the outside. The problem, today, is that there are many qualified pharmacists who can step in from the outside. So, if you don’t have any IT/informatics experience and you’re applying for a position from “outside” an organization, there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll be competing with people who already have experience. So, with no experience and applying from the outside, you have to understand that you’ll be a department’s third choice, following internal candidates and outside experienced candidates.

In order to be an “experienced” candidate, you have to gain experience. You need to put a plan in place to gain that experience any way you can, even if that means volunteering your time. I know this is not what you might want to hear, but there are people out there doing this today — pharmacists spending four to 20 hours a week volunteering their time to projects in exchange for the experience that those projects give them.

Thomas Zogiab, Jim Simpson, Jerry Fahrni, Faron Moore, Dave Wolfe, Bryan Foster & Ron Burnette

You may also like: Should you Explore a Career as a Health IT Consultant?

General, Career Planning, David Kushan

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