The problem was daunting — to train 3,800 nurses in the rollout of the new electronic record system at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank along with four other hospitals in Southern California. But chief nursing officer Katherine Bullard was able to pull it off, using neophyte nurses and technology developed by Epic Systems Corp. of Madison, Wisc.

“As we were preparing for the Epic rollout, we were on a pretty compressed schedule,” Bullard reports. “We were extremely concerned about meeting the needs of our patients if we had to pull one out of every six of our nurses and train them to be Epic ‘super-users’ to support the staff. We could replace them with temporary labor, but that’s costly and not optimum for continuity of care.”

The chief nursing officer, however, decided to tap into the wealth of newly graduated and licensed registered nurses in the Los Angeles area who were unemployed. She figured what the new nurses lacked in clinical expertise they made up for by being “technology natives.” 

And by adding new nurses instead of temporary labor, patients got state-of-the-art attention from Providence employees, with the rollout coming off with minimal disruption to patient care. And for Bullard, the daughter of a physician and nurse, patient care was critically important.

“Growing up, I learned what a sacred privilege it is to help people who are suffering and vulnerable,” she says. “We are patients’ advocates. Nurses are the ones who are there when everybody else goes home.”

The new nurses hired as “EITs,” moreover, became the best candidates for Providences nursing residency program, while Providence got some new workers who were already familiar with its health-care facilities.

The technology rollout has been a success at all six Providence hospitals, with Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica “going live” this month.

“Experienced nurses sometimes find it burdensome to bring a nursing resident up to speed,” points out Bullard. “But because the nursing residents had already been part of the Providence system as EITs, they came in familiar with the system and already knew some of the people. In fact, some of our nurse managers were competing with each other to hire their favorite EITS to work in their units.”