Advice from a First-Time Epic Consultant: Getting Started Right

Pam, a new Epic consultant, shares her tips for getting started on the right foot as a consultant.

The excitement you feel when you land your first consulting engagement can turn to nervousness as the assignment nears. There are contracts and paperwork to take care of and lots of logistics to figure out. On arrival at the client site, first-day butterflies are not uncommon as you start to figure out where to go and what you’ll be doing.

Pam, an Epic consultant with Healthcare IT Leaders, can relate to those feelings; she’s just a few months into her first assignment with one of our clients in the northeast. In an earlier blog post, we asked Pam to tell us how she prepared for her career change to an Epic consultant. In this installment, she updates us after her first few weeks on the job.

You are about a month into your first consulting assignment. How’s it going and what’s the adjustment been like?

The first month exceeded my expectations!  You never know if any new job is going to be a good until you jump in with both feet, but I did prior research to help manage my expectations. I interviewed every traveling consultant I knew to help me avoid surprises and navigate this new, uncharted territory.  I also read a lot of articles and blogs (like this one) to increase my understanding and be as prepared as possible.

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Starting any new job is stressful. As a consultant, I think there is an added pressure to be the “expert” and know all the answers. I’m very confident in my knowledge and experience, but I also realize it’s impossible to know everything. So if I don’t know how to do something, I’ll ask for help. I’ll always do additional research and try to get to an answer myself, but my peers are a great resource, too.  Other consultants, Epic employees, my manager, the client—everyone has been terrifically helpful.

I find that I love having my work and personal life compartmentalized. When I'm at the client site, I am fully engaged and 100% focused on work without distraction. Being hundreds of miles from home, I don’t feel pressured or pulled away by the expectations of family and friends.  Vice versa, when I am home, I can be fully committed to personal relationships without the interruption of being asked to stay late or come in to resolve an unexpected issue.  The physical distance has set boundaries, allowing me to stay present when at work and when at home.

It's also been great making new friends. After just a few weeks, I was invited out for dinner with some of the full-time employees, and I've also met and made new friendships with other traveling consultants working on the same team.  We meet for dinner one night a week and do local sightseeing.  We also meet at the airport before our flights depart to eat together and engage in conversations about the past week or plans for the weekend.  Interacting with others makes me feel more comfortable in my new surroundings and provides me with a support system away from home.

 Some of our best traveling consultants are pretty organized. Do you have any tips or tricks you’ve learned in your first few weeks that have helped you?

What helps me most is to optimize time spent waiting in airports or in flight. I utilize this time to plan out the week ahead, create and prioritize my to-do/shopping lists, schedule appointments online or via phone, etc.  I also use travel time to research answers to work-related issues and problems.  I download and study Epic consultant training companions and Galaxy documents to retain and increase my knowledge and skill set so I remain a valuable and marketable consultant. Airports and planes are also great places to phone or email family and friends, maintaining these important long distance relationships.

I also like to stick to a regular routine as much as possible.  Whether I’m doing laundry or expense reports, I find that following a weekly schedule makes me more efficient.  That means setting aside the same time each week and completing tasks in the same repeatable order, so I am efficient with my time at home and on the road. As you might guess, I am a big fan of multitasking. The laundry and expense reports I mentioned usually get completed at the same time:  when the clothes are out of the dryer, my expense report is ready to submit.

I think it’s really important to take care of myself, mentally and physically. The travel and the hard work can put anyone at risk for burnout.  As part of my weekly routine, I make sure I am exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. My hotel has an onsite gym, which is great. I also make the conscious decision to reduce the amount of time I spend watching TV and using electronic devices or social media, which allows more time for sleep.

How has it been working with Healthcare IT Leaders?

Working with Healthcare IT Leaders has been a fantastic experience.  Dimple, my Consultant Advisor, was an invaluable resource, not only in successfully identifying and getting me placed in a contract which fit the client's needs as well as my own, but also in coordinating the on-boarding process to ensure a smooth transition.

Every employee that I’ve worked with, from the representatives who assisted me with submitting new hire paperwork to the person who helped me access and submit my first expense report has been knowledgeable, kind, helpful, and patient with me as I navigated my way through the first couple weeks of employment.  Healthcare IT Leaders has exceeded my expectations as a consultant placement firm. I look forward to continuing an ongoing, long-term relationship with the company in the future as an Epic consultant.