My Brain Is Too Tired To Come Up With a Title For This Blog Posting

I usually don’t write about work stuff on here, but my work stuff is so big right now, I’m breaking my own rules.

1,344 days ago, I took a new job. That job entails evaluating a very big and very important health system project that is putting an electronic health record into a bunch of hospitals, ambulatory clinics, and residential care facilities in the province1  I’ve been working over these past 3.66 years on such things as developing an approach to the evaluation of a project that will be implemented over several years at 40 different sites, developing a more detailed plan of how to do that evaluation (a plan that has to balance having enough structure to answer the evaluation questions and be flexible enough to respond to the rapidly changing environment within and around the project), and developing a very detailed monitoring process to provide near-real time data for leaders to use to inform their decisions as this massive change is implemented (just to name a few), all the while engaging with literally hundreds of people from all levels of three large health organizations, as well as people within the project, people from the major vendor with whom the project is working, and people from other partner organizations.

On Saturday, that project “went live” at the first two of the hospitals that will ultimately be using this new system. It was quite a surreal feeling to walk into the hospital at 5:30 that morning and no sooner had I got settled into my office space and was walking down the stairs did I hear the announcement telling everyone that the new electronic health record system had been turned on and everyone should login.

Since then, the pace and volume of work of work has been crazy. My team is responsible for providing data to monitor how things are going and it’s surprising how much work it is to get the data that is needed daily: to extract the data, clean the data, analyze the data, and get the data to the people that need the data when they need the data. And then come the requests for more and different data, and different ways to slice and dice the data. And then all the work of keeping up with all the things going on with the implementation and liaising with all the people who need to work together to accurately interpret the data and then take action on what the data is telling us. Needless to say that the hours at the hospital have been long. All of last week last week my team and I worked frantically to get the last minute preparations done, then I worked Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and yesterday for many more hours that I was scheduled to. Not that I should really complain – other people on the project have been working 12 hr – or longer! – shifts every day. At any rate, I don’t think I’ve felt this thoroughly exhausted since that time that I played hockey for 10 days straight. Like the fell-asleep-on-the-Skytrain-on-my-way-home, broke-two-dishes-in-the-space-of-five-minutes-because-holding-stuff-is-beyond-my-available-power, can’t-find-the-words-to-make-sentences-I’m-trying-to-speak2 sort of exhausted.

Today is my first day off since the project went live and I’ve actually had a chance to sort of catch my breath and do a wee bit of reflecting. Part of my reflections are “omg, there’s so much more that I wish we had theme and people to do” and part of it is “omg, we are doing some pretty amazing stuff and my team is rocking this!” I’m also realizing how many things I’ve learned during the time I’ve worked on this project, including, but not limited to (and in no particular order):

  • complexity and systems thinking and how I can apply concepts from these to my work of evaluating the most complex thing I’ve ever been a part of
  • how computer software gets built
  • project management
  • extracting data from a number of different places and then managing all those data across a team of people
  • managing a team of people
  • presenting data to make it as useful as possible
  • human-computer interactions
  • organizational development and organizational culture
  • the way we use language (particularly how we use the same words to mean different things or different words to mean the same things).

I feel like all of these things (and more) could be a blog posting of their own3, but for now this list will have to suffice.

Tomorrow I get another day off – like a weekend, but in the middle of the week! – and then I’m back to the hospital for more data-tastic times. Hooray for data!

  1. The facilities are mostly in Vancouver, but also in a few surrounding municipalities that are served by the same health organization (like Whistler, Pemberton, North Vancouver, Richmond, and the Sunshine Coast), plus some facilities in other parts of the province, such as those of BC Cancer. []
  2. So pardon any typos or other nonsense that may be in this blog posting that my tired brain cannot seem to prevent right now. []
  3. In fact, documenting my reflections – and important part of an evaluation – is one of things where I’m like “omg, there’s so much more that I wish we had the time and people to do all the things!” []