Perl.com: Nebraska High School Student Volunteers His Perl Expertise to Save Hospital

Author Steve Dunbar

“Here’s some more background on the story. In about September,
my wife Charlene Dunbar came home from work at Madonna
Rehabilitation Hospital with a short deadline for conversion of the
policy and procedure files into a form suitable for the hospital
intranet. The problem intrigued me, since it looked like a problem
ideally suited for some kind of automatic conversion.

“After some conversation, I realized Perl would be ideal for the
job. I also knew I didn’t have the time to do the job right.
However, Andy Rutledge had just volunteered to help at the hospital
in fulfillment of his Lincoln Public School’s Citizenship Issues
class requirements.

“Usually the volunteers do filing, copying, boxing of records,
and similar low-skill jobs. However, I knew that Andy knew Perl,
and so I suggested that Andy write the program for conversion.

“Charlene got everything set up, and Andy wrote the program.
Andy told me it took about 6 hours to write the program, and it
took 3 revisions to get everything just right. Andy gave me a copy
of the program, and it was nicely done, better code than I could
have written!

“The conversion program had a conversion success rate of 99.5%.
The conversion missed a few files because the titles (which were
the key for recognizing the start of a new policy, and the key for
collating the policies) contained some weird characters that nobody
knew were in there. One slight correction to the posting in
perl.com is that there were about 1000 policy and procedure files,
not 2000 as mentioned there.

“Andy used the remainder of his 20 hours of volunteering to help
set up the intranet Web page, do the indexing of the documents, and
so on. It was a terrific volunteer opportunity, and everybody had a
good experience.

“I should mention that the work was done with Perl, but not
under Linux, unfortunately. Nevertheless, some of the MIS people at
the hospital were amazed that such a tool even existed!”