Fostering a culture of learning at Nova Scotia Health Authority

Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) provides health services to Nova Scotians and operates hospitals, health centres, and community-based programs across the province. With more than 23,000 employees, 18,000 lab tests, and 3,000 licensed physicians, this provincial health authority says successful partnerships — with community groups, schools, governments, foundations and auxiliaries, and community health boards – are key to fulfilling their mandate to create a healthier Nova Scotia.

Keltie Jamieson, Senior Director & CIO, Information Management & Technology (IM/IT), leads an IT team of 280 people as well as a 900-person health and information management team responsible for records and admissions. A recent group education initiative to prepare staff for the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems – Canada (CPHIMS-CA) exams revealed the value of partnerships and interprofessionalism, both internally and externally.

“By necessity, tech people become very focussed on what we know, and we can lose sight of the fact that we work in healthcare,” says Keltie. “Group learning helps people in the IM/IT world to see their role as part of the healthcare environment. Technical staff, nurse practitioners, and clinical people all have a lot to learn from each other, so it’s best when we learn together. People come out of their silos and we learn that we all work better together.”

Learning through Digital Health Canada (NSHA is a long-time Corporate Member) has helped with overcoming the distance challenge: government-funded health agencies have limited travel budgets, and Digital Health Canada membership gave the team the option to take advantage of virtual learning for team education and onsite exam sittings for credential acquisition, all at their own pace.

“Being a Digital Health Canada a member is great,” says Keltie. “We like having access to online materials and the opportunity to meet people virtually through education and participation in things like Webinar Wednesdays. We can reach out to people and share across the country.”

Team members who have achieved the CPHIMS-CA credential know that it brings recognition as having a certain level of expertise among IT, clinical and management professionals from across Canada. In addition, says Keltie: “We are all speaking the same language and using the same terminology.”

Feedback from team members from the most recent group exam sitting (and team-building exercise) has been phenomenal: “I get to connect with employees, and we gather people who don’t usually work together to share knowledge and experience as we learn as a group.”

Ongoing learning and professional development is a theme at NSHA as digital health and health tech in general continues to constantly change. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” says Keltie. “If we want to advance it’s up to us to keep our learning up to date.”

Keltie and her team bring in speakers from other jurisdictions and sectors, host their own speakers, and share new content and available resources at monthly town hall meetings. They also know how much there is to learn from other sectors, such as banking or airlines like WestJet, who made the switch from a back-of-chair entertainment system to an app – a technology improvement that could potentially be adapted to the hospital bedside.

“We are on the cusp of great change in digital health and things are getting more and more exciting,” says Keltie. “Where Canadians succeed is in sharing information. The more we can share with one another the less we duplicate and the faster we can keep moving.”