This week’s non-clinical spotlight features a speech-language pathologist who moved into the IT/informatics space, working as an Epic Application Analyst at Denver Health!
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What is your full name and title at your current job?
Tricia Moomaw, SLP
Epic Application Analyst
Denver Health Medical Center
Where are you located?
Where did you go to SLP school, and what year did you graduate?
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
During graduate school, I completed an internship at Denver Health (DH) and was fortunate enough to get a full-time SLP position there a few months later.
I had worked at a SNF immediately after graduation and had a great experience; however, I jumped at the opportunity to work at DH as soon as a role opened. I have worked there for 24 years, with 18 years of that spent in a clinical role.
One of the aspects of working at DH that I enjoyed the most was the diverse patient population. I worked in the hospital as well as our outpatient clinic and treated a wide variety of swallowing and cognitive-communication disorders.
When, and why, did you decide to pursue a non-clinical role?
I had been experiencing some burnout but wasn’t actively looking for another job. That said, a few years prior, I had been a member of the operational workgroup supporting the project for our legacy EHR and had really enjoyed it.
In 2014, Denver Health contracted with Epic and held a job fair at the hospital. I attended the fair knowing very little about the job opportunities available.
I learned that Epic recommends hiring a mix of analysts as well as clinicians, because they best understand the unique needs and workflows of the organization. The Denver Health Epic team hired nurses, providers, pharmacists, lab personnel, RTs, SLPs, and former paramedics.
I brought unique ancillary experience as I better understood the complex workflows of disciplines such as RT, Nutrition, PT, OT, and Speech Therapy.
What are you doing these days?
Currently, I am an Application Analyst on the Epic Inpatient Clinical Documentation and Stork (Labor & Delivery) team. In addition, I’m a member of our charging workgroup, clinical content management group, and our change control board which reviews changes going into our Production system.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
No, I’m solely a non-clinical SLP at this time.
How long have you been in your current role?
How did you find your Epic Application Analyst job?
I was very grateful that I didn’t have to leave Denver Health to take this new position. When DH contracted with Epic, they held a job fair explaining the various roles available. I applied for one of the Epic Application Analyst roles, as this fit best with my clinical and IT experience.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I updated both to include my recent experience, emphasizing my supervisory responsibilities and leadership skills. I also included my experience working on the previous EHR project.
What was the interview like for the Epic Application Analyst role?
I interviewed with three of the managers who had already been hired to lead the DH Epic team. Like me, they had worked at DH for many years, so I had met a couple of them previously. They were interested in the work I had done on the previous EHR, as well as my analytical and leadership skills.
What do you think made you a good fit for the Epic Application Analyst role?
I began my career at DH as a Speech-Language Pathologist and was promoted to a lead SLP position eight years prior to applying for the Epic position. I believe that the experience I gained as a lead clinician was evident during the interview and has helped me tremendously in my current role.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
I did take a few computer classes to buff up my Word and Excel skills. I had the basics, but knew I needed to improve in order to increase my chances of being successful.
After the team was hired, we were sent to the Epic campus in Verona, WI for multiple training classes in our respective applications.
If you advanced through the company to get to where you are, what are some of the things you did to stand out, take initiative, and advance?
- Contributed to the design of the SLP documentation for our legacy EHR.
- Lead SLP role.
- Graduate student mentor and student program coordinator.
- The unique clinical experience I had as an SLP helped me tremendously. I treated patients in all areas of the hospital – the outpatient clinic, inpatient ICU units, med/surg, NICU, ED, etc. I brought extensive knowledge and understanding of the vast and unique workflows at DH. I’d also worked with many different clinicians including nurses, providers, clerks, RTs, OT/PT, Dietitians, etc. and have been able to advocate for them as we optimize our system.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
I received a tremendous amount of support from my manager as well as from the SLPs on my team.
Many of my other colleagues were very surprised and I am frequently asked if I miss patient care and if I will be returning. I think many of them assumed it was a temporary role and that once we finished our Epic implementation, I would be returning to my clinical position.
I understand their interest and I do miss patient care. I loved being an SLP and miss my old team as well as treating patients.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
- Upgrading systems. Each quarter we undergo a system upgrade. This involves receiving code from the Epic organization and then tweaking and testing the new code in our system. This takes a lot of our time and is a primary responsibility for an analyst.
- Optimizing the documentation and workspaces for a variety of users. I am on our Inpatient Clinical Documentation team, so we are responsible for maintaining and optimizing Epic workspaces for nurses, providers, clerks, CSW, Care Management, PT, OT, SLP, RT, Dietary, and many other roles. There are only six of us on the team, so it keeps us very busy.
- Working on Help Desk tickets. We are assigned tickets from our Help Desk from users who have experienced problems with the system or have followed a workflow that led to an error.
- Tackling unexpected projects. The response to the COVID pandemic is a perfect example. Because the hospital had to increase its capacity, our team, along with our ADT (Admit/Discharge) team, worked on building new rooms and ensuring that devices such as monitors and vents interfaced with Epic. We designed and built the nursing “Disaster Documentation” (basically reduced required documentation). We were also responsible for building BPAs and other Decision Support for patients with positive COVID results.
- Being on call. We do take call for a week at a time, 24/7, every 7-8 weeks. We are paged for any high priority issues placed by an end user. We can be paged at any time, day or night, and must respond within 30 minutes.
What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?
Like all roles in our field, it is incredibly demanding. We serve a huge number of clinicians and between optimization and maintenance tasks from Epic, there isn’t enough time or resources to complete everything we would like. This is a burden for me personally, as I want to provide the best EHR to all of our users.
Being on call is also a challenge. The number of times we get paged has decreased significantly since our go-live; however, we still get calls off hours and in general, it is a lot of responsibility.
There have been so many rewards—really, there are too many to count! I’ve successfully learned a new skill that is completely different than my previous career. I have also contributed to patient care in a different, but still important and meaningful, way. I work on a team with incredibly caring, bright, and supportive people and they are an inspiring and motivating group to work with.
How do you think working as an SLP prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?
Many of my SLP skills transferred well and I was well-prepared to take on the new role. As an analyst, we work directly with our end users, so my experience collaborating with nurses, providers, and other ancillary clinicians was beneficial. Knowledge of workflows, documentation requirements, billing, etc. have also been a key to success in this role. As SLPs, we are taught to think critically when evaluating and treating our patients. These critical thinking skills are also necessary to becoming a successful analyst.
Other skills necessary in both areas include communication, meeting management, delegation, transparency, and understanding when/how to escalate issues.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
Comparable pay—maybe a bit more, depending on the role. Hours are similar, with the exception of our on-call weeks. This is considered part of our regular job responsibilities and we may get calls at night and/or on the weekends.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
Good communication skills, detail-oriented, able to prioritize and change course quickly, hard-working, thick-skinned, and passionate about patient care and providing staff with the best product possible.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
Prior to COVID it was a mix of both. We were on site 2-3 days/week and WFH the other days. Now, we are primarily WFH; however, we do go into the hospital for certain things such as testing prior to a system upgrade.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes – I’m sure they would be considered for many non-clinical roles, including Epic Application Analyst, other positions in IT, and various management roles.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
I had taken advantage of leadership courses offered at DH during my time as the lead SLP. While I didn’t know at the time that I would be changing my career path, they undoubtedly helped.
A career change wasn’t something I’d seriously considered until the opportunity presented itself at DH. I was uneasy and unsure if it was the right thing. My sister recommended that I read the book Who Moved the Cheese?. This gave me some added confidence and excitement as I was making my decision.
What is a typical career path for an Epic Application Analyst?
There are lead and management positions within our Epic team. In addition, Epic is made up of many different teams and applications which is very exciting and provides many different opportunities. For example, there is an Orders team, Infection Control team, Ambulatory, Inpatient, Lab, ED, Billing, Scheduling, and Training/ID, amongst others.
What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?
Most likely I will be staying in my current role as an application analyst. I have had the opportunity to apply for lead and management positions, but up to this point, have not done so. This surprised some; however, this was a big change for me with a huge learning curve. I was a lead in my previous position and had the opportunity to supervise a team. While I loved it, it comes with unique challenges, even with the best of teams. I do enjoy being in a leadership role; however, but have found many opportunities to do this as an analyst, typically as a project lead or lead of our multi-team workgroups.
What would you recommend to someone who is considering becoming an Epic Application Analyst?
Do your research and try to talk/meet with someone who is currently in the role. Be persistent and try not to get discouraged. Epic application analyst positions can be competitive; however, many hospitals are implementing Epic and I frequently see positions available.
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why? How would you propose doing so?
Free mental health services for clinicians and more emphasis placed on self-care. I believe this should be a free service available to all clinicians, no matter the setting.
I don’t think we often realize the toll our professions can take on our well-being. Working in a trauma hospital, I frequently thought about how my typical day was filled with patients and families experiencing some of the worst and most traumatic times in their lives. While helping them can be rewarding, it can also take a huge toll.
If you could give yourself one piece of career advice you wish you had during your SLP program, what would it be?
I looked at my career path very short-term and wish I would have set goals and understood what options were available to me earlier in my career. I also wish I knew how to better advocate for myself, including how/when to negotiate salary, hours, etc. I think being a regular part of an SLP community with clinicians outside of those at my hospital would have been helpful. It’s a great way to share ideas, collaborate, learn how other institutions support their clinicians, etc.
If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?
Take care of yourself – there is not enough emphasis on our own mental health as we care for other people.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
GO FOR IT! I am not a risk-taker by nature, so if I can make a change, anyone can do it.