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Sansum Spotlight: Kim Hurley

Jan 11, 2018, 11:55 AM by Nicole Young
Kim Hurley, Director of Operations and Clinical CoordinatorKim Hurley arrived in Santa Barbara the week of her 18th birthday, a young woman thrilled to begin her modeling career with a successful local agency. She took a receptionist position for several Internal Medicine doctors at the Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic (now Sansum Clinic) to keep her afloat financially. “We didn’t have computers. We were writing on paper and using typewriters,” she chuckles. While her dreams of becoming a supermodel faded, her time with patients made her realize she truly loved helping people, and her backup employment plan turned into a 30-year career in medicine. “If I were to do a tour of Sansum operations, we might find a figurative ‘Kim was here’ in each and every nook and cranny,” says Karen Handy, Kim’s supervisor and Vice President of Operations.

Kim is now 50 years old and Director of Operations and Clinical Coordinator. Her initial span of assorted administrative jobs carried her through numerous departments including Undersea Medicine, Occupational Medicine, Ophthalmology, and the Doctors’ Weight Management Program. In her twenties, she rose up through the ranks, becoming a medical assistant and then a phlebotomist trained to draw blood. She studied nursing at Santa Barbara City College, squeezing in work hours around her class schedule. Several long-standing physicians became her mentors, encouraging her and offering flexible hours while she earned her degree. Once she received her RN license, she dove into her first official nursing job in the Clinic’s Pediatrics department. “It was intense, but one of the greatest learning experiences,” Kim explains. A transition into Urgent Care provided a fast and varied immersion into almost every kind of medical situation imaginable. Kim thrived and ultimately managed more than 75 people in both the Urgent Care and Pediatrics departments.

With the birth of her son, Liam, in 2006, Kim and her husband, Troy, decided that life attached to a pager buzzing at all hours might not match well with caring for an infant. So Kim became Director of Nursing, a job centered around policy, procedure and education. One year later, Kim’s daughter Kascata arrived, allowing her to fully utilize her multi-tasking skills honed as a nurse while juggling two babies and a busy career.

When Sansum Clinic began a multi-year, mammoth-sized project to upgrade its electronic health record or EHR, Kim joined a special team comprised of clinical staff and information technology experts to research, acquire and implement new software. Once the team chose “Epic” software to run their digital EHR operation, she spent many
weeks at the company’s Wisconsin headquarters for in-depth training to become certified in all the program modules. This education would allow her to oversee a smooth transition and “optimization,” a critical piece of the equation to determine if the new system was accurately recording important medical data without interrupting patient care. Sansum Clinic needed a Nursing Informatics Analyst, a specialty that combines nursing with the management of information and communications, a perfect fit for Kim’s background. This new field is expanding rapidly, coinciding with the explosion of technology in the medical setting. Kim views this current role as Director of Operations and Clinical Coordinator, as a fantastic opportunity to contribute and learn something new. “I really saw it as a great career move and something that excited me,” she says. Her main focus is meeting with every department to observe how the electronic health record is used in the clinical setting. “Most of the doctors and nurses know me and trust me. I rely on the people on the front lines to tell me what’s working or not working, and how I can help. Then I take that information back and fix it, or share it,” she notes. “I always try to look at things through their eyes. I try not to come in with preconceived notions. Instead, I sit back and remember what it’s like to be in their shoes.”

Kim runs down details on everything from how many clicks it takes for doctors to complete their digital checklists, to how patients react, recording her own observations along with employee concerns. She then returns this immense data haul to the IT members of her team so they can customize how the system operates for each department. Because of her many hours spent in offices and exam rooms, Kim has a keen sense of what and who is making a difference. “I can see who the hot shots are who should be moved up, as well as which individuals might need some mentoring,” describes Kim. “We are a large and successful clinic that has been around for almost 100 years, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to seek out what the barriers are to providing the best patient care possible and find ways to address them. “

Even though acting as a conduit between clinical staff and administration is extremely rewarding, Kim does sometimes miss the experiential side of nursing. She’d eventually like to go back to school to receive a nurse practitioner license. Right now, despite sleep not appearing to be high on her need list, there might not be enough hours in the day for her to tackle that aspiration. In addition to her Sansum Clinic job, she is the PTA president for the Ellwood School, she helps organize the Dos Pueblos Little League organization, and she is a volunteer bartender at the Santa Barbara Bowl for more than 30 shows a season. Kim’s vast range of roles within medicine could easily land her a plum position in any large healthcare organization, but the many people she’s connected
to personally and professionally keep her in town. “My roots are here,” she admits. That’s good news for Karen Handy, who has only the highest praise for Kim. “She is my right hand and my left hand in helping to move our organizational initiatives forward. It is a true pleasure and privilege to work with and learn from Kim.” Openness to new challenges helps to keep things fresh, even if hard work is required, according to Kim.
“Many people have taken chances on me, and allowed me to try new things. I am really thankful for the different ways I’ve been able to contribute and grow here.”