Epic Certification Could Help You Settle Into Healthcare IT
In Sun Tzu's art of war, the esteemed general breaks every action down into terms of risk and stability. Moving forward requires disruption of the status quo, so every decision should be balanced against the potential damage. For example, I may be disrupting the status quo by making up Sun Tzu quotes, but I'm probably not going to get fired for it, and I've made my point. So ... score.
What I'm trying to say is that there are some fields where disrupting the status quo can be dangerous, and healthcare is definitely one of them. Contrast this to IT, in which disrupting the status quo IS the status quo ("Have you tried turning it off and on again?" could be testimony in a malpractice suit). This might be the reason that, generally speaking, medical establishments have a tendency towards — can we call it "quaintness?" — in their database management. Couple this with the ever-increasing amount of paperwork they're expected to deal with, and we begin to see a real problem.
Both the disease and the cure have been around for a while, but the implementation is just starting to make headway. Meet Epic, a software developer that's longer-lived than most commercial software. Founded in 1979, Epic provides a medical records database solution focused on mid-sized to large healthcare organizations. Epic proudly boasts that 54 percent of the medical records in the United States reside safely within their systems. The company is a force to be reckoned with. And as more hospitals mature into electronic record keeping, the growth is only going to continue.
So, good news first: You can still get a seat on this gravy train. Epic offers its own product-specific training for each of its many modules, and only those holding Epic certifications can guide their implementation. The bad news is that Epic doesn't really seem to want to certify people. In order to become Epic certified, you must be sponsored by a hospital or other medical institution wishing to implement an Epic system. And honestly, that's fine, because you probably couldn't afford an Epic cert anyway.
Because (and yes, this is more bad news) you're actually required to train on-campus. In Wisconsin, I mean. Among the cheese plants. Which, in case you hadn't caught on, is where Epic calls Home. (Wisconsin, not the cheese plants.) Point is, unless you happen to live in Wisconsin, you're going to have travel expenses on top of any actual course fees.
You're also going to need boarding money, since certifying can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more. This won't all take place in Wisconsin, though; hands-on training is also part of the certification. Which is fine, because there's a good chance you'll be contractually obligated to see your sponsor to the end of their Epic implementation.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that healthcare IT pros tend to make somewhere between $65K and $110K, and Epic consultants in particular can pull from $70 to $115 an hour. So, whether you renew your contract, or opt out for the consulting game, Epic certification can keep you making money for a good long while.
Epic's the biggest gig out there in healthcare IT, but if you want to avoid the diva's endless demands for green M&M's, there are going to be other opportunities in this fast-growing field. First, if you're not already caught up on your networking certs, now's a good time to start, probably with the CompTIA Network+, or maybe Cisco's good old CCNA. Also, look into IT employment opportunities with hospitals and other medical institutions. If they have a system, good. If not, even better.
I can't tell you if healthcare IT is the right path for you. If, however, you're interested in medicine, decent at system administration, and interested in a long, fulfilling career, then there may never be a better time than now to start. Just ask permission before unplugging anything.