If you’ve been in healthcare IT for any amount of time, you know that Epic Systems is a major player in enterprise-wide EHR and clinical software. Their solutions are in many of the largest hospitals and clinics in the US, including many high-profile teaching institutions. This of course has created thousands of high-paying jobs as analysts and administrators. An Epic analyst can work just about anywhere in the US and in some countries abroad. Let’s look at how to get Epic certified, and how to overcome the barriers to entry.
Epic Certification – The Hard Reality
The challenge is that there are limited paths to get training on Epic’s suite of products. First off, you can apply directly to work at Epic at their headquarters near Madison, WI. They require that most of their staff work onsite, which means living in that area. So for this article, I’m not going to advise on how to get hired with Epic. There are other resources you can find online to help you prepare for an interview with Epic. You could start with this Epic subreddit.
Epic does not allow just anyone to gain access to their training materials and courses, no matter how much money you have. Besides direct employment with Epic, there are two ways to get access to their training materials:
- Work for a hospital or clinic group who has signed a contract with Epic to implement their system. They will pay for you to go to classes in Madison, and arrange your access to Epic’s portal, which contains everything you need to learn and support the software,
- Work for a consulting group that provides technical or operational services to Epic clients. They will also sponsor your Epic certification the same way that a hospital would.
If anyone tells you that you can get Epic certification through some backdoor channel, you can be sure that it is a scam. Also, certified analysts like me cannot share Epic’s internal materials.
Every other post I’ve read on Epic certification stops here. However, I’m going to give you three strategies that you can use to increase your chances of getting Epic certification sponsorship through a hospital or other organization. Which options you take will depend on where you are right now.
If you already work at a hospital that has or is going to implement Epic: Congratulations, you are already halfway there! You just need to work on a plan to get from your current department into the IT department, or from the IT department into an Epic position. If you are in another hospital department, read the post below on moving from a CNA or MA position to IT. Even though it speaks to those job roles, it has great strategies for anyone who is trying to move from another clinical department. It has a month-by-month plan to help you get into your hospital’s IT department:
Once you have gotten into the hospital IT department, you now have to prove that you are worth investing the time and money that it takes to achieve Epic certification. It doesn’t hurt to go ahead and apply for any open Epic analyst positions unless those positions specifically state that existing certification is required.
Fortunately, there are two other routes that get you closer to certification without your organization needing to spend the money to send you to Epic for training classes.
The first strategy toward certification is the Epic Credentialed Trainer position. I’ve written a complete post on that, so check that out and pick up again here.
You see now that the Epic Credentialed Trainer is a good entry-level way to get exposed to Epic. If you are successful in that position, you have a decent chance to work toward certification using our next strategy. This option is called Epic proficiency, as opposed to certification.
Epic Proficiency vs Certification
The difference between Epic proficiency vs certification is that with certification, your sponsor pays to send you to Epic to take classes before you start studying for exams. With proficiency, you get permission from your employer to study on your own without the cost of travel and the class fees. You still have to pass the test, although with a slightly lower score than a certified analyst. Also like certification tracks, most proficiencies have a project that you build and submit to Epic. So bottom line, proficiency usually does not cost your organization much beyond the time spent studying and testing, and printing of study manuals.
I can tell you that self-studying for proficiency is not easy. If you have been working with the system as a Credentialed Trainer, then you have a better chance of succeeding because you have already been exposed to the system. In any case, the Epic course manuals are top-notch, and if you are focused and disciplined, you can succeed.
Not Currently Working At A Hospital
So what do you do if you don’t work at a hospital that has Epic? There are a couple of more strategies that may get you a bit closer.
Epic Go-Live Support Jobs
When a large IT project nears its activation date, it is common for an organization to realize that it needs a lot of staff onsite for a short time period to provide “at the elbow” support for clinical staff. A specialty activation support company may provide dozens of people who are able to show basic application functionality. The firm piles them on a plane and sends them to a hospital system or clinic locations. Sometimes they use staff who don’t have application build experience. If you have at least some technical skills, and a basic understanding of clinical terminology, you might be able to get a spot with an activation support company. After supporting several implementations, you then have a chance to get the firm to sponsor you for certification, or get hired by a hospital IT department.
To look for activation support companies, go to this page of over 370 healthcare IT companies. Then in the on-page search box, type “activation support”. This will show you several companies that may have go-live support jobs.
The last option I’m presenting is to look at entry level hospital IT jobs outlined in the post below. These are jobs that don’t require clinical knowledge and are designed to get you in the door of a hospital IT department:
How Hard Are Epic Certification Exams?
Well, the short answer is pretty hard. However, I probably have average to slightly above average intelligence, and I’ve done quite well on my exams. Their instructors and materials are excellent. The key is to do exactly as the instructors advise. Here are some tips:
- Don’t take any shortcuts in the materials. Follow all of the exercises without skipping anything,
- Do your project before you take the exam,
- Don’t focus on rote memorization, and don’t waste time making your own flashcards. Instead, spend a lot of time working in the practice system to build everything called for in the book.
How Long Does It Take To Get Epic Certified?
The amount of time it takes to get certified depends on which certification you take, but generally each track will require about three classes and at least one project. There will usually be 2-3 tests. If you work for a hospital, you will usually be expected to achieve certification within six months.
To summarize, your best options for Epic certification sponsorship if you already work in a hospital that has Epic:
- Epic Credentialed Trainer
- Epic Proficiency, which doesn’t require travel or class fees
If you don’t work at a hospital that has Epic:
- Go-live support jobs
- Entry-level IT jobs