Careers in Healthcare: UNBC reaches out

Post-secondary and high school students came together in Valemount, as students in this photo are seen learning about the intubation procedure. / SONYA KRUGER

by EVAN MATTHEWS

UNBC is taking steps to further address healthcare workforce shortages in an innovative and engaging way.

Going back to 2010, The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is a grassroots initiative addressing rural healthcare workforce shortages by bringing post-secondary students in healthcare training programs — from different healthcare professions — together with students in small rural towns and schools.

The roadshow’s represented professions include medicine, nursing, medical laboratory technology, nuclear medicine, dental hygiene, pharmacy and optometry, according to UNBC.

“Our primary goal is to go into the high schools and present to the kids there from the perspective of our current students,” says Dr. Sean Maurice, a senior lab instructor with the Northern Medical Program at UNBC.

“In most cases, UNBC students are relatively close in age to the high school students and speaking a language they can understand and are interested in,” he says.

The roadshow showcases healthcare careers as legitimate options for rural students by allowing them to administer medical procedures to dummies.

“We bring a whole bunch of medical equipment, so it’s very hands-on,” says Dr. Maurice.

“There is lots to see, touch and do,” he says.

Students experienced a variety of hands-on medical procedures and equipment including intubation, x-rays and wheelchairs, to name a few.

“We want to make sure they’re getting out to see some of the other surrounding communities who may be in need for healthcare professionals. Maybe UNBC students would consider having a career there,” — Dr. Sean Maurice, UNBC Northern Medical Program’s senior lab instructor

The roadshow visited McBride on May. 1 and Valemount on May. 2.

“Everyone seemed to really enjoy it,” says Dr. Maurice.

“When we get them into small group presentations, they tend to light up,” he says.

Addressing the healthcare workforce shortage is about the volume of healthcare workers, yes, but Dr. Maurice also points to the importance of distributing workers appropriately.

While UNBC is actively trying to grow northern health programs — seeing enrollment numbers rise in the Northern Medical Program, the X-Ray Program and the Faculty of Nursing — students only train in Prince George.

The roadshow’s main objective is go garner interest from high school students, but Dr. Maurice says there is a secondary objective pointed toward UNBC students already enrolled.

“We want to make sure they’re getting out to see some of the other surrounding communities who may be in need for healthcare professionals,” says Dr. Maurice.

“Maybe UNBC students would consider having a career there,” he says.

Percentage wise, Dr. Maurice says only 22 per cent of Canadian physicians are in rural communities. Physiotherapists, he says, are three times less likely to settle in a rural B.C. community versus an urban one.

“We’re trying to plant seeds.”