St. Joe's hires "co-op army" to become leader in digital healthcare

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

When your supervisor tells you to hire 60 co-op students for the fall 2017 term, what goes through your mind?

"When I heard we needed 60 students, I thought it was crazy," laughs Chelsea King, a project analyst at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. King was given the job of recruiting co-op students for a major digital upgrade at St. Joe's.

As a former co-op student herself, BSc ’16, she knew how to recruit the best talent. King posted jobs at 15 post-secondary schools across Canada, screened 300 applicants, conducted 150 interviews and ended up with 58 of the best co-op students in Canada.

Thirty-five students on this co-op dream team were hired from the University of Waterloo.

Affectionately dubbed "a co-op army" by King, the student team was hired to help launch the Dovetale project, a new digital infrastructure for patient care at St. Joe's. This fully integrated, safe and secure information solution will place all of a patient’s information in one location. Patients will only need to tell their full story once, and all caregivers will see that same information. This move will make St. Joe's a fully electronic hospital, one of only eight in Canada with this level of technology today.

With a paper-based system, a single visit to the hospital could result in over 180 pieces of paper, creating a potential for error and inefficiencies. Co-op students were hired for a variety of positions including technical readiness testing, change management, data validation and training hospital staff on the new software.

St. Joe's officially flipped the switch to a digital state on December 2, 2017 at 2:00 a.m. But the work of the co-op students didn't end once the system was live. There were six weeks of 24-hour support provided following the launch, with some shifts staffed by co-op students.

King says the co-op team has been up for the challenge, even with some work happening after 5:00 p.m. "It’s not always ideal, and they don’t get a desk and an office at times, but they've been so flexible throughout all of this," she says.

Tara Coxon, chief information officer at St. Joe's (and another Waterloo Science and Business grad), isn’t surprised that the students are so adaptable. Her message to the students: "We would not be here without you," says Coxon. "You are an integral part of our team. You are key."

A thank you and recognition event was held in October with co-op students, Dovetale members, and University of Waterloo partners reflecting on their experiences this term.