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The stroke rehabilitation team from B2 North in Hamilton General Hospital.
The stroke rehabilitation team from B2 North in Hamilton General Hospital believes in lifelong learning, and this helped staff of all ages embrace the new Epic hospital information system.
July 22, 2022

Embracing technology at any age: Meet the HHS B2North stroke rehab team

Anyone who thinks that some older adults are intimidated by new, leading-edge technology hasn’t met the Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) stroke rehabilitation team from Hamilton General Hospital’s B2North unit.

“Our longtime team members weren’t born and raised using computers and the Internet…” — Keisha Jack, HHS clinical manager

This team from the Regional Rehabilitation Centre helps stroke inpatients gain as much independence as possible and connect with resources to support their transition from hospital to home. And now they’re doing their jobs in Epic, HHS’ new hospital information system.

head and shoulders photo of HHS clinical manager Keisha Jack

Keisha Jack, HHS clinical manager

Willingness to change

About 40 per cent of the unit’s nursing staff are aged 55 years or older, so they’re highly-experienced professionals who have been nursing for decades. When HHS launched its new Epic system on June 4, many aspects of the way they worked changed instantly.

“It took a while to get comfortable with Epic but I can already see the advantages.” — Emilia Pachowicz, registered nurse

That’s because the new Epic system is fully digital, replacing dozens of electronic and paper systems that had been the norm for years. Everything from a patient’s vital signs to medication orders, meal orders and doctors’ notes is inputted directly into the Epic system so everyone on the care team has instant access.

“When our B2 North team first heard that this new, fully-electronic system was coming, there were definitely concerns that it would be very challenging,” says clinical manager Keisha Jack.

“Our longtime team members weren’t born and raised using computers and the Internet, and because they weren’t digital natives there was a technology gap for many. But now that we’re using Epic, I’m hearing from staff, including our more senior team members, that they’re loving the new system.”

Lifelong learning

Fans include registered nurse Emilia Pachowicz, 64, who has been nursing for 40 years.

Head and shoulders photo of registered nurse Emilia Pachowicz

Emilia Pachowicz, HHS registered nurse

Pachowicz plans to retire from her full-time position next year but continue working casual, part-time hours. She never considered leaving her career early to avoid learning a new system that would dramatically change the way she had worked for years.

“I like challenges and learning new things,” says Pachowicz. “It took a while to get comfortable with Epic but I can already see the advantages. It’s a very good system. It provides the most accurate, up-to-date information much faster than the old system and that helps improve our workflows and patient safety.”

Secret to their success

As well as their willingness to learn, the B2 North team also had plenty of superusers, says Bella Gago, a registered practical nurse with the unit.

“It really helped to have so many superusers.” — Bella Gago, registered practical nurse

head and shoulders photo of Bella Gago, HHS registered practical nurse

Bella Gago, HHS registered practical nurse

Superusers are staff and physicians who received extra, in-depth training in the months leading up to Epic’s launch, so that they could provide support to their colleagues.

Eight of the unit’s 73 staff members volunteered to be superusers — six nurses, a social worker and a physiotherapist.

“It really helped to have so many superusers,” says Gago, a tech-savvy superuser in her 20s. “Everyone on our floor was at different levels in terms of catching on. Some team members were learning quicker than others, but everyone supported each other. It was a really heartwarming, team-building experience.”

“People were very nervous at launch time.” — Carmen Soto, HHS charge nurse

Charge nurse Carmen Soto, also a superuser, was working the morning of June 4 when Epic went live. In the blink of an eye, the new system was in place.

Head and shoulders photo of Carmen Soto, charge nurse

Carmen Soto, HHS charge nurse

“People were very nervous at launch time.” recalls Soto. “Epic was a completely new system, about to go live. So we just took a deep breath, and went one step at a time as soon as it launched. And as the day progressed, our team members gained confidence and were able to accomplish their tasks with minimal concerns.”

Organization-wide, planning and preparation for Epic implementation took place over two years leading up to the launch.

“Implementing Epic is no easy feat, and I am so proud of how far our organization has come over the last two years,” says Michelle Leafloor, vice-president of health information and technology services, and chief information officer for HHS. “Epic will keep HHS among leading hospitals in Canada, with a worldwide reputation as a centre of excellence in care, research and learning.”