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Anuj Thirwani on Career Pathways in Pharmacy Informatics

By Anuj Thirwani posted 06-01-2015 13:41

  

Career Pathways in Pharmacy Informatics

by
Anuj Thirwani

When I began pharmacy school, I had no idea what “informatics” was. I had been drawn to the profession by the allure of working in healthcare and caring for patients in an accessible setting, such as a community pharmacy. While I definitely identified as a technophile, I had not expected to combine that aspect of my life with my professional pursuits. The path that eventually led me to my current role as a clinical applications pharmacist began with repeated discussions with various preceptors, who lamented the lack of sophistication in the technology they used in their practice settings. I may be paraphrasing, but “I wish a pharmacist who knew and understood our workflow was involved in designing this system” was a frequent complaint I heard. I felt that, just maybe, I could contribute to bridging that gap. Flexing my IT muscles revealed that this specialty within pharmacy practice that I had stumbled upon did have a name: “pharmacy informatics.”

The next step that I took remains a challenge for many pharmacy students today: figuring out what career pathways exist in this initially mysterious niche of pharmacy practice. What kind of training do I need, if any? Should I pursue a residency to gain clinical experience first? Do I need operational experience? What can I do as a student to be involved? I have been asked these questions, or some variation of them more times than I can remember. There was never a comprehensive resource to point them towards until now.

Recently, I was involved in developing a document with the help of the SOPIT SAG on Professional Development that would help answer some of these questions. Below is a draft of this document, which outlines various pathways that could lead to a career in pharmacy informatics.

My path corresponds to Pathway 3, as I completed a PGY1 pharmacy residency followed by a PGY2 residency in pharmacy informatics. I combined my interest in computers and technology with operational experience gained as a technician and then as a staff pharmacist to arrive at my position today.

I call upon my fellow pharmacy informaticists and members of the SOPT to provide feedback on this document in the comments below, and describe which of these pathways most closely corresponds to your own journey.

Pharmacy Informatics Roadmaps: A document to provide guidance to students about various pathways or ‘roadmaps’ to careers in Pharmacy Informatics

 

Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Career Timeline overview

Staff/clinical pharmacist transitions into pharmacy informatics role

IT professional (with previous formal training) graduates from pharmacy school, and takes on pharmacy informatics role

Pharmacist completes residency (PGY1 +/- PGY2 informatics) and takes on pharmacy informatics role

Pharmacist completes post-graduate training in informatics after pharmacy school

Prior to pharmacy school

(2-10 years)

 

·         Pre-pharmacy prerequisites

 

May include:

·         Undergraduate degree

·         Informal IT training

 

Likely to have interest in technology (software and/or hardware)

·         Formal IT training

(up to and including undergraduate Bachelor’s degree, in a field such as Computer Science)

 

May include:

·         Experience providing technical support in a healthcare setting

(even specifically to a pharmacy or institutional pharmacy department)

·         Experience as a pharmacy technician

·         Pre-pharmacy prerequisites

 

May include:

·         Undergraduate degree

·         Informal IT training

 

Likely to have interest in technology (software and/or hardware)

·         Pre-pharmacy prerequisites

 

May include:

·         Undergraduate degree

·         Informal IT training

 

Likely to have interest in technology (software and/or hardware)

During pharmacy school

(4-6 years)

·         Works as pharmacy intern

·         May leverage technical skills for projects, depending on departmental needs

Immediately post pharmacy school

(1-2 years)

·         Works as staff and/or clinical pharmacist

·         May complete PGY1 residency

·         May include vendor-specific training

·         Working in pharmacy informatics

·         May spend some time staffing as a pharmacist

·         May include vendor-specific training

·         Completes PGY1 pharmacy residency

·         Potentially pursues and completes PGY2 specialty residency in pharmacy informatics

·         May include vendor-specific training

·         Enters academic program (Master’s degree and/or PhD)

·         Potential fields of study include Management Information Systems (MIS), Health Informatics, Biomedical Informatics

Long-term career trajectory

·         Transition into pharmacy informatics role

·         Often to fulfill the informatics personnel needs created by a large project (e.g. EHR implementation)

·         Technical skills often gained on the job

 

Many of the first pharmacy informaticists "stumbled" into the field this way

·         Works in pharmacy informatics, which combines technical skills and pharmacy knowledge

·         Works in pharmacy informatics, which combines technical skills and pharmacy knowledge

·         Works in pharmacy informatics

·         May work in academic arena, perhaps even within a school of pharmacy

Pros +++

(from student perspective)

·         Will learn pharmacy workflows very well in long-term staffing/clinical role

·         Possession of strong technical skill set from the "previous professional life"

·         Opportunity to learn pharmacy operations and workflows within the condensed time-frame of residency

·         Opportunity to conduct research relate to health informatics

·         Increased career prospects in academia

Cons ---

(from student perspective)

·         Depends on availability of position

·         Potential for unfamiliarity with pharmacy workflows, depending on student/intern experiences and extent of staffing experience

·         Requirement to complete 1-2 years of residency

·         Requirement to complete additional academic training after completing the PharmD

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments
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Comments

07-14-2015 11:28

Anuj – thanks for mapping it out this way. For those, like me, whose journey embarked on pathway 1, the destination has certainly has been ever changing. Perhaps, another row that could be added is “Other Career Opportunities” – beyond the limits of pharmacy informatics. With the knowledge gained as a pharmacy informaticists, you understand how hospital’s work from the inside out. This knowledge can position you for C-Suite opportunities, ACO opportunities, project management opportunities, or even outside the hospital in the hi-tech world. The sky is the limit!

07-02-2015 19:14

Hi Anuj, thanks for blogging this, and I agree with Eric's comments I think this will be useful for folks entering pharmacy and trying to find a path that aligns with them. Using your chart I'd say I began in the first stream then jumped out of the column as I moved into a vendor role for the last 5 yrs but I have began a post grad in informatics so I guess I partly align with the 4th pathway. Again echoing Eric it is very hard to capture all potential streams but I think your doc does lay out the pathways for the broad majority. Thanks for sharing. Will

06-16-2015 09:49

Excellent post Anuj! I think this is very valuable resource to students. I am similar to you in that I followed the third path, but then crossed over in the the 4th later in my professional life. It seems difficult to account for all of the idiosyncrasies that go into a career path, but with the end in mind it is useful to have such a road map!