Amy Demski is a hard working consultant like many Epic consultants. When recruiting and trying to build relationships with these consultants, it’s important to remember the road they’ve traveled to get to the position they are in. Amy recently wrote on her personal LinkedIn her experience in getting certified. The original post can be found here – but we wanted to share and feature her post this week to give recruiters and future consultants alike a point of view on what this journey entails.
Many thanks to Amy for sharing your insight and for letting us share!
Several people have reached out to me to inquire about the process for obtaining Epic certifications as a consultant, so I’ve decided to answer a few of the most common questions here, rather than individually over and over again.
Disclaimer: I am NOT an Epic expert; the information below is based on my own certification journey. Many of you have far more years of Epic experience than I do. It was simply a goal of mine to become certified while continuing to consult, so I’ve done the research and legwork – initially to find out if it was even possible, and on an ongoing basis to navigate a somewhat confusing path.
Like everything else in healthcare, it’s my impression this process continues to evolve, so my experience may not match yours five years ago, and if you stumble upon this article five years from now, requirements may well have changed by then, too. To give you an idea of my timeline, I started the process for my first certification (Anesthesia) around December 2016 and completed it June 2018 (more on why it took so long later). I got the ball rolling on my second certification (OpTime) in January 2018, and I am writing this article from a hotel room in Verona while attending classes this week. Fingers crossed I can wrap this one up more quickly than the first!
If anyone has any vetted, confirmed, accurate additional information, please feel free to post it in the comments below, and definitely share this article if you find it helpful. I’d love for this piece to serve as a solid resource for consultants looking for information on certification options, and that can only happen if more perspectives than mine are incorporated. I do; however, ask that you leave off any speculation, hearsay, or comments discouraging other consultants from pursuing this path. This was by no means easy, but I am proof that it is absolutely possible and there will be no dream-crushing on my watch. 😉
1. Can I attend classes without sponsorship?
Nope! Everyone must be sponsored by either a client hospital or a firm. Also, if you’re going the PT/ID route, the final TED classes can only be sponsored by a hospital.
2. Who pays for a consultant’s certification?
Usually the consultant. Sponsorship is not synonymous with payment, which I think is a common misconception. It’s possible (but rare) a firm will pay for a consultant’s cert, especially if the consultant has worked exclusively with them for awhile, or if s/he signs an agreement committing to work with them exclusively for a set period after. It’s also possible (but rare) that a hospital will cover it, especially if the consultant has signed on for an extended contract.
3. Can all consulting firms sponsor consultants?
To my knowledge, not all healthcare IT firms can sponsor consultants for certification. I don’t know the precise number, and I don’t know where to access a comprehensive roster – or if such a compiled list even exists. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s more than a handful, but far less than the whole lot.
4. Who sponsored your certifications? Can you give me contact information?
That’s not likely to happen. But let me explain why, and also offer some advice.
Consultants sponsored by firms are representatives of that firm at Epic. It’s not in any firm’s best interest to send every consultant they’ve ever worked with. Let’s be honest; there are some pretty shady consultants out there, just as there are “bad seeds” in every profession, and they don’t always get weeded out during the screening/hiring process. In addition, sponsorship is also not a privilege they’re likely to extend to a consultant they’ve neverworked with. Think about it – would you be comfortable sending a complete stranger to represent you?
My professional relationships are important to me. I am extremely grateful to the firms that provided me with these two amazing opportunities. I wouldn’t consider “thanking” them by advertising their sponsorship just so they can be inundated with requests from consultants they don’t have a history with, or complaints from consultants they do. And P.S., if you are fortunate enough to secure sponsorship, I strongly encourage you to thank your benefactor firm by practicing discretion as well.
My advice to you is this. Vet each and every firm before deciding if you’ll work with them, and honestly, you should do this regardless of whether or not you are pursuing a certification. Just as there are shady contractors, there are a lot of unscrupulous firms out there lately, too. Even though it’s rarely the intention, consultants that work with these firms are contributing to the problem (but that’s a topic for a different article).
Do your due diligence and the research required to establish any strategic partnership. Ask on the front end if the firm has a sponsorship agreement with Epic; however – and I can’t stress this enough – prove yourself an invaluable asset and an outstanding representative of their firm to both the client and Epic before broaching the subject of sponsorship.
In my experience, there is just no way to fast forward this process. If you’re reading this article as part of your preliminary fact-finding mission, don’t expect to be certified in three months.
Final word on this – my sponsorships are not guarded secrets. With minimal research, you’ll likely be able to come up with some pretty good guesses, but no, I’m not going to hand the information to every stranger that asks. I paid my dues, I aligned with the right firms, and then I worked my ass off for them. If you want this badly enough, you’ll do the same.
5. Why did it take you so long to finish?
In a nutshell, because I didn’t follow Epic’s advice.
Certification, at least for the periop applications, requires you to attend multiple classes at Epic’s headquarters in Wisconsin – that part probably isn’t a surprise to most readers. What I think might be less commonly known is once you leave Verona, you also have multiple build projects to complete and tests to pass – on your own time. As far as how much time, there are just too many variables to give an estimate here, most of which are tied to you – your learning and test prep style, your level of focus in class, how quickly you were able to grasp the material, how much and what type of exposure you had to the application before class, etc., etc., etc. Suffice it to say for must of us, it leans more toward 100 hours than 10.
Epic recommends completion of these requirements quickly after class while the information is still fresh, and for the average hospital employee it’s a no-brainer to heed their advice. When hospital employees return to work after their Epic classes, they are compensated for the time it takes to work on the projects and prep for the tests. That is not the case for consultants.
Consider my scenario as one example of our unique situation and the accompanying challenges. I attended Anesthesia certification classes mid-February 2017, about two weeks after rolling off a contract. When I returned home after another two weeks at Epic, I tried to balance starting work on the certification projects (which were not easy for me) with the time-consuming hustle involved in hunting for the next gig – especially having already been off work for a month. I was fortunate to backfill onto a project in early March, but as the sole periop consultant coming in the week before Super User training, my hands were beyond full. Cert project work came to a screeching halt.
Over the next year, I chipped away at it slowly – very slowly – between projects mostly, but also sometimes on my rare weekends home or over the holidays. The challenge is, when you’ve been away from the material for any period of time, you can’t just jump back into building – or at least I couldn’t. I would lose a few days re-teaching myself the material before I could start making progress again.
Without getting too deep into the weeds, there are also logistic-type challenges coming from the Epic side when you take as long as I did to finish.
Consultants are only granted access to UserWeb while either on a client project or if they’re actively working on completing a cert. This was probably the single most frustrating piece for me because the latter scenario seems to get lost in the shuffle a lot in Verona, and I received different information depending on who I spoke with. I still haven’t figured out if I’ll be able to obtain access to work on badges or other continuing education between projects, but I digress.
Without fail, my access would be revoked when I finished a project, and it was always a couple days of back and forth emails before the confusion was cleared up and my access was reinstated. I haven’t generally had more than a week or two off between contracts, so this was significant. It always felt like just as I got back in the system, it was time for me to drug test, find a notary, get a physical, pack, etc., and head to the next site. When I’m on a project, the client comes first and I just rarely had extra time or energy to keep making progress on my cert requirements while working full time.
In addition, versions and project environments both expire. While your class attendance still counts, you eventually can’t test or build on the expired version. Don’t panic – Epic doesn’t spring this information on people. You know their planned expiration dates as soon as you’re assigned your environments. In addition, every time you log into the Training Home on UserWeb, you’ll see important dates like these in the right sidebar.
All that said, life happens! Despite awareness and planning, you still may not be able to finish in time, so you’ll have to learn the new version (the materials for which will be different than those you’ve been studying), and you’ll have to complete the new version’s projects and tests. Furthermore, if you started work on an old version’s project or in a stale project environment, and you didn’t finish before that version or environment was retired; well, that work was lost. Yep, you heard me. You’ll have to start over.
I’m including a lot of detail on this last item because I don’t want any of you to make the same mistake I did simply out of ignorance. Follow Epic’s best practice recommendation here. It may be hard to find time to get the requirements done once you leave Wisconsin, but trust me on this one – find the time. Not doing so will make the certification process far more painful than it needs to be. Really.
Based off conversations I’ve had both at Epic and at various hospitals, taking six to eight weeks to complete a cert (which includes one to two weeks onsite at Epic for classes) seems to be a reasonable expectation.
This was a lot of information, and even so, it probably still doesn’t cover tons of other questions you have if you’re toying with the idea of pursuing Epic certification as a consultant. Feel free to post them below, and I’ll follow up as I can with any additional information I have.
If this is your goal, do not let others discourage you or convince you it’s impossible. It’s not. The process is a bit confusing and convoluted, and opportunities aren’t likely to just fall in your lap. You will probably have at least a few false starts, and keeping the ball rolling once it’s finally in motion will take significant effort on your part. But if you are willing to put in the work, you can absolutely make this happen.
I firmly believe there is room out here for every consultant willing to hustle hard, operate with ethics, do his/her part to elevate the profession, and continually strive to be an expert in their chosen app or area. Cheers and best of luck to all of you in your pursuit of Epic certification!