Posted: December 3, 2018

For much of her career, Melissa Dennison has acted as a bridge… using her experience in supporting hospital care to improve information technology.

Now, Melissa has put her 30 years of experience to work in a massive project to launch a common information system serving patients at both GRH and St. Mary’s General Hospital.

Early in her career, Melissa provided support in clerical roles for more than a decade at GRH. She then became the hospital’s manager of admitting before joining the information technology department in clinical informatics. That field links care to information and technology services that support care providers.

Melissa Dennison Portrait

These days, Melissa is actively engaged in the new PRISM implementation, which will provide a state-of-the-art patient information system to support care at Kitchener-Waterloo’s two hospitals. She sees it as an opportunity to support the future of health care in Waterloo Region.

How did you come to work in clinical informatics?

I stumbled on it really. I think health informatics found me. For my first 14 years at GRH I worked part time clerical support while raising a family. A great opportunity for advancement (manager of admitting) came up at a perfect time. I didn’t know it then, but a significant portion of that role was clinical informatics. After two years in management, I transitioned to full time clinical informatics with the IT team. 

What brought you to Grand River Hospital?

An interest in health care and in my community and the urging of a friend who enjoyed nursing here.  There was also the impossible prospect of finding part-time work my chosen career as a buyer/expeditor in manufacturing. The KW Hospital (as it was called then) afforded me the opportunity to mother full-time while maintaining my skills in the outside working world.

What’s your role today, and what do you enjoy about it?

I am a member of the PRISM team.  We’re responsible for the development of a common health information system serving GRH and St. Mary’s General Hospital.

My role as the clinical informatics e-health consultant allows me to participate in many sub-teams. We are a unique mixture of current and new, clinical and business staff from both organizations. The collaborative effort involved in a project of this size is impressive.  Working with St. Mary’s staff has been a pleasure!  It’s fantastic to learn more about our community partner and create new relationships with our peers.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned through your career?

Listen carefully, absorb, digest and then act. My goal is to consistently put that into practice! I’ve also learned that GRH’s best attribute and most valuable resource is its people. I’ve been fortunate to have inspiring and impactful mentors at GRH. In more recent years I’ve switched roles, but I feel like I’ve learned more from the folks I’m mentoring than they have from me!

Melissa Dennison At Computer
Melissa has been actively involved in translating front-line needs into information systems to better support care.
What keeps you on your toes in your role?

Change. The needs of our community change as we grow. The reporting requirements to provincial and federal agencies are in a constant state of change and the technology sprints to keep pace. It’s very fulfilling to contribute to the design that supports this growth.

Why are you proud to work at GRH?

When I began my career here, we were a mid-sized community hospital that understood the benefits of growth in its employees. Today, as a large community hospital GRH continues to champion employee growth.

I have been encouraged to enroll in courses to support the process changes and implementations of electronic applications. I’m proud of GRH’s leadership and innovation in the health care community.

What keeps you motivated at work?

Clinical informatics was in its infancy when I joined IT in the early 2000s and it’s been very rewarding to experience the progression. Sure, there have been growing pains!  In hindsight we accomplished a great deal with very limited resources. Being part of the PRISM team is the most exciting and challenging work to date. It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of the project that will change the shape of healthcare in our community. 

I can apply what I learned of the clinical and business processes in a practical way. Having experienced the challenges first hand, I can suggest and recommend solutions that meet the practical need. It also afforded me ‘insider knowledge’ of the staff (doctors, nurses and support staff), the programs and the community that I was supporting to allow me to be more relatable.

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