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Health-care students and registered nurses, occupational therapists and pharmacists are among those now eligible for free training in how to safely perform a nasal swab to test patients for COVID-19.
The province and Red River College unveiled Wednesday the details of a new initiative that aims to increase testing capacity in Manitoba.
Red River has created what it calls a "micro-credential" course to train more Manitobans to collect virus samples.
• Any post-secondary student enrolled in an approved paramedicine or respiratory therapy program
• Any post-secondary student in — at least — their second year of study in registered nursing, licensed practical nursing or psychiatric nursing
• University of Manitoba medicine students, including medical students and physician assistant students, in their second year or higher
• Anyone qualified to practice in one of the following regulated health professions inside Manitoba or outside Manitoba or Canada (based on the presentation of valid credentials): registered nursing; licensed practical nursing; psychiatric nursing; and medicine
• Health-care aides
• Medical laboratory technologists
• Occupational therapists
"This is about building human resource capacity for COVID testing," said RaeAnn Thibeault, executive director, academic at the college.
The continuing education course, provided through blended delivery, will include essential theory provided online and a hands-on training component. It will take as few as five hours to complete.
Successful students will be added to a pool of qualified candidates who can support testing sites in Manitoba, offering them a "direct pathway to employment" at a testing site, according to a release.
Thibeault defines "micro-credential" as a specific type of training developed to respond to the needs of industry when industry identifies a knowledge gap; she said Wednesday it’s likely such credits will become increasingly popular, given the changes COVID-19 has brought about.
In this instance, the province approached the college to inquire about creating training to help people learn the knowledge and skills required to work at a testing site. The estimated cost of the tuition-free course was not available Wednesday.
While the province’s operational testing sites are currently staffed primarily by nurses, Thibeault said many other health-care professionals have the basic foundation of anatomy and physiology knowledge necessary to conduct tests. The broadened approach will give part-time health-care workers, students and internationally trained professionals the opportunity to contribute to the COVID-19 response, she added.
“I think it's a great opportunity for students. We’d get practice with skills we’re going to have to use later on in our careers.” – Miranda Stead, vice–stick of the University of Manitoba Nursing Students' Association
Red River students in health-care practicums are already on the frontlines of the pandemic response, with some nursing students already working in COVID-19 testing centres.
In a release Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister said the new partnership will provide skilled workers with training so they can "join our efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities."
A provincial spokesperson later said in a statement the move is not a result of staffing shortages, but rather part of the province’s multi-faceted approach to help people access testing. The strategy also includes opening additional sites to bring the total drive-thru site tally to nine and developing an appointment-based scheduling system.
"I think it's a great opportunity for students. We’d get practice with skills we’re going to have to use later on in our careers," said Miranda Stead, vice-stick of the University of Manitoba Nursing Students' Association. "COVID isn’t the only thing we do a nasopharyngeal swab for."
“None of the people on this list are wanting for work; they’re busy. We’re short–staffed across the board, so I’m not sure how this is going to play out in real–time.” – Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals
Stead, who is considering taking the course, compared it to a health-care aide transition program popular among first year nursing students.
Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, isn’t quite so optimistic. He believes the partnership was rushed and said Wednesday he is doubtful the training will have a significant impact on wait times.
"None of the people on this list are wanting for work; they’re busy. We’re short-staffed across the board, so I’m not sure how this is going to play out in real-time," Moroz said, adding the province didn’t consult with the union, which represents nearly 200 different health-care professions, before rolling out the plan.
The Manitoba Nurses Union welcomed the initiative, however, president Darlene Jackson said Manitoba is still facing a nursing shortage and requires leadership from the province to boost the number of public health nurses.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
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