Requirements for a pharmacy informatics professional

In a post from ASHP Midyear I mention that “pharmacists are highly educated clinicians that deserve to practice informatics at that same level. [They] should be the individual involved in making sure that systems are designed to include pharmacy workflow, that the reports being written provide the necessary information to be clinically relevant, that current clinical standards are adhered to during implementation of new systems, be the representative at the table during discussions of integration and interoperability of hospital systems, etc”

A couple of things caught my eye since writing those words and I would like to share them with you here.

After returning from ASHP Midyear I read an interesting editorial by Loyd Allen, Jr. in the Newsletter dated December 11, 2009.

Editorial: A Profession or a Job

Is pharmacy a “profession” or a “job” to you? It seems we have a lot of individuals practicing pharmacy that use it as a “job” for a nice income, but don’t want to put in the time or the effort to practice it as a “profession” and be truly involved. They come to work, put in their time, and pick up their paycheck but don’t even think about serious involvement in their profession; they don’t participate in local, state, or national pharmacy organizations to help promote and improve the profession. They are quick to yell and scream when they lose their reimbursement and blame everyone else when they have done very little, or nothing, to maintain and improve the practice.

There is no doubt that the income received today as a pharmacist has been attracting many into the profession that did not really take their education seriously, and this attitude has continued into their practice. When we see examples of pharmacists that don’t know how to do basic calculations or patient counseling, make dispensing errors, etc., you have to wonder how they ever made it this far!

You also have to wonder about the education being offered, as many colleges of pharmacy are inadequately staffed with faculty and new colleges continue to come on the scene. Where are the faculties coming from to teach in the future? Many aspects of the “profession” are engrained in pharmacists during their academic training. While many faculty are doing a great job, some faculty of colleges of pharmacy are not even pharmacists, and some are so involved in their research that teaching is a “necessary evil” to maintain their academic appointment. While it is true that many nonpharmacists do a great job of teaching, it is also true that many do not, they don’t have the same “feeling for the profession” that they should have, and, therefore, that “feeling” can’t be communicated to the students.

Maybe, just maybe, preceptors can step in and fill any existing voids and influence students in the issues of the profession and express to the students why it is so important to be active. This is especially important today as so many decisions are being made nationally that can adversely impact us. We must be heard in large numbers. We must be involved or we will be left out of decisions that impact our practice. If pharmacy is just a job to you, please consider making it your profession and actively working to make it better.

I don’t necessarily agree with the entire editorial, but I do agree with some of it. A profession is something you take pride in and have passion for, while a job is something you do to pay the bills. I know the difference; many do not.

The second item was a post I found on Linkedin from “friends of the ASHP” looking for a Pharmacy Informatics Coordinator. I’ll leave out the job description and focus specifically on the qualifications.


Minimum – 2 years clinical and dispensing experience in inpatient settings; recent technical experience implementing or maintaining a pharmacy clinical information system and automated dispensing systems.
Preferred – 3-5 years inpatient and outpatient experience as a pharmacist; 2 years recent technical experience implementing and maintaining EpicRx (Willow); technical experience with MedSelect.

Minimum – Proficient in desktop productivity applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint); Working knowledge of clinical and pharmacy information systems as well as clinical workflows in patient care settings; proficiency using clinical information and pharmacy systems.
Preferred – Training and experience implementing and maintaining clinical information systems and automated dispensing systems; EpicRx (Willow) and Orders Certifications;

Minimum – Pharm.D. or baccalaureate degree in pharmacy; Washington state pharmacist license.
Preferred – Specialty Residency or advanced training or degree in informatics; EpicRx (Willow) and Orders certification.

The job posting sends a confusing message. The need for someone with clinical and dispensing experience plus experience with a pharmacy clinical system makes sense, but a requirement for knowledge of specific systems, EpicRx and MedSelect, creates a pigeonhole effect. Unlike some industries, there are many pharmacy information systems in healthcare. I can teach anyone how to maintain a system. What I can’t do is teach someone logic and how to be intelligent and forward thinking. In my humble opinion, they’re looking at this all wrong. Focus on the key components and forget about the system requirements. If you happen to get it, great; don’t go looking for it.


6 thoughts on “Requirements for a pharmacy informatics professional”

  1. Great post Jerry! It was a pleasure meeting such a wonderful, knowledgeable and dedicated pharmacist in Las Vegas this year. I wanted to contribute a few links to your post.

    1. List of Career Resources at ASHP (see IT Job Descriptions section)

    2. Role of Informatics Pharmacist Statement, AJHP. A wonderful synopsis.

    If you need the pdf, I can email it.

  2. Thanks for the information Chad. I had a great time speaking with you and John in Vegas. It’s really too bad we couldn’t make a habit out of it. I’m already looking forward to next year.

    I knew about the IT Job Descriptions, but didn’t know about the Informatics Pharmacist Statement that was in AJHP; I’ll be adding that to my files. What I find interesting is the number of different descriptions for IT pharmacists. Every facility is different I suppose.

  3. I really wish there was some way to standardize the disparate descriptions. The ones that bother me the most are the truly IT centric positions (printer, hardware, network, security, access, etc).

  4. Hi Jerry. I came across your post while researching a career in pharmacy informatics. Do you have any advice for new graduates without a residency or IT experience on how to get a foot in the door? Do you think graduate programs would help even without any experience?


  5. I get this question quite often. It really depends on the situation. Experience is king. Residencies in Pharmacy Informatics didn’t exist when I got into the game, so I really can’t say. However, residency always seems to help. I’m not a fan of the graduate programs I’ve seen because they don’t really prepare you for what you have to do. To get your foot in the door, just start volunteering to be involved with all the pharmacy “IT projects” within your group. Get some experience under your belt and go from there. Best of Luck -Jerry

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