Credentials: B.S.Pharm, R.Ph.
Position/Title: Clinical Informatics Pharmacist
Organization: Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Primary Specialty: Informatics
Specialties: Medication Use Safety
Graduating in 1988, I received a Bachelors of Science in Pharmacy. At minimum a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree will be required today. Because my role evolved within my organization along a national focus on Patient Safety and Informatics, I did not pursue a graduate degree but rather learned on the job. There are quite a number of graduate programs available today that include medical informatics, biomedical informatics, public health informatics and others. Many of the programs are available online. In addition, there are a number of PGY2 Pharmacy Informatics residencies available. With the federal focus on Meaningful use of electronic health records, there are a variety of informatics programs and jobs available.
Type of Patient Population Served
I serve an 800 bed acute care hospital without a pediatrics unit.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Clinical Informatics Pharmacist (CI Pharmacist) is an expert in human factors, patient safety, and the use of technology to optimize care delivery processes and effectively communicate patient care activity. The CI Pharmacist specializes in the medication process, from ordering to administration, and is responsible for effective process design, development, and implementation of the Electronic Medical Record and Clinical Decision Support. As well, this role supports pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other clinicians as the resource for requests related to EMR changes and additions. The CI Pharmacist works closely with clinicians, departmental leadership, Pharmacy, Quality, Patient Safety, Accreditation and Licensure Departments and Information Systems staff to clarify needs, prioritize requests, design workflow to fit with electronic systems, and execute change and facilitate adaptation to the Electronic Medical Record. My role is a full-time salaried position of 40 hours per week and does not include weekends and evenings. Actual work time is closer to 50+ hours per week. A typical work week includes many meetings and collaboration with clinicians to find the best way for our electronic systems to support safe and effective care.
How I Got Where I am Today
After 12 years of clinical staffing in the pharmacy department, I took an opportunity to join a multidisciplinary patient safety research team. In my five years with that team, I focused on medication use safety, which naturally evolved into my involvement in our CPOE implementation. After 3 years of trying, our new department of Quality and Clinical Informatics was formed. I do not have an advanced degree in my field, but I would recommend pursuing one to pharmacists new to the field. My staffing experience has been invaluable, and I would recommend that all pharmacists staff before pursuing a job in informatics.
Advice for Students Pursuing this Career Path
In my opinion, informatics is about how we can use technology to improve care for both the patient and the caregiver. Professionally, pharmacists are well-suited for this. This career choice has challenged me as well as fed my passion for continually improving the patient experience by making systems safer. Though this position is viewed as “away from the clinical bedside”, I'd probably do more for the patient today than I did during my staffing years. My advice would be to accept challenging assignments whenever you can; you will learn a great deal about yourself and others and you might fall into your dream job. Be a leader by working outside the silo and collaborating with others; physicians, nurses, patients, IT staff etc.
Professional Organizations/Activities Outside Day-to-Day Job Responsibilities
I am currently a Director at Large for the ASHP Section of Pharmacy Informatics and Technology, as well as a member of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Becoming involved in these societies has taken a great deal of time, but the return on investment is enormous.
You can reach Anne by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.