CARRIRE AND COLLEGE: Algonquin College Responds to Health Care Worker Shortage

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The shortage of nurses and personal counselors in the Canadian health care system is well known. Hospitals, long-term care centers and community care facilities have been concerned for some time about the difficulty many face filling their vacancies, but the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the issue and labor shortages have become worse than they already were .

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In response to this issue, Algonquin College’s Pembroke Waterfront Campus is releasing more places in its Practical Nursing and Personal Support Assistants programs, while also partnering with the health sector. For PSW applicants, there are also government-funded incentives to help pay for tuition costs.

Recently, the college announced that it was expanding its already existing partnership with County Renfrew to provide PSW students with a fully integrated learning experience within a long-term care environment. For over five years now, the College has delivered a PSW program within Bonnechere Manor in Renfrew, but this fall the program will also be offered exclusively at Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke.

There are clear benefits to students participating in these ‘living lab classrooms’ as they have the opportunity to be fully immersed in the day-to-day activities of a long-term care environment, side-by-side with healthcare professionals. With a wide open job market desperate for help, it also allows students to leave a positive impression on those who have jobs at home.

This fall, there will be an additional incentive for students to enroll in the program as a $2,000 scholarship will be available to them to help pay for their post-secondary education. The combination of financial support, learning within an operational facility, and the prospect of quickly finding employment in a field with staff shortages makes the Personal Support Worker program a good choice for anyone looking to enter the healthcare field.

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In 2009, long before the global COVID-19 pandemic placed extreme strain on healthcare, the Canadian Nurses Association predicted that by 2022 Canada would be short of 60,000 full-time registered nurses. Since the pandemic, some nurses have left the field or have retired, leaving more of a gap. That has led to pressure being put on nursing schools to deliver more graduates.

The Pembroke Campus of Algonquin College offers both the four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in partnership with the University of Ottawa and the two-year Practical Nursing degree program. For the first time in its long history of offering nursing classes, the campus will have two intakes for its Practical Nursing program.

The program is always offered in the autumn, but in 2023 there will also be a January intake. No fewer than 60 new practical nursing chairs will be created on the Pembroke Campus. There are still a few places available in the practical nursing program that will start in September, but there are now also registrations for the winter intake. The College also plans to continue offering a PSW program at Renfrew’s Bonnechere Manor in January.

Given Canada’s aging population, the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of Canadians, and the significant investment that both the Canadian and Ontario governments make each year in health care, the job market is expected to remain strong for personal assistants and nurses for some time.

Jamie Bramburger is the manager of Community and Student Affairs at Algonquin College’s Pembroke Waterfront Campus.

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