The coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted our health-care system, and leaders in health-related post-secondary education like Durham College have been instrumental in formulating a strong response.
Regular teleconferences with local health-care partners have provided up-to-date information about urgent needs and opportunities to lend assistance, says Dr. Elaine Popp, executive vice-president, Academic, Durham College. Examples include the donation of PPE as well as the loan of equipment like ventilators, IV pumps, cardiac monitors and ECG machines when the pandemic began.
Yet beyond immediate crisis mitigation, the aim is to strengthen the health-care system by training skilled and career-ready graduates who can bolster the depleted ranks of health-care personnel, says Dr. Popp. “There is high demand for our students graduating from all health-related courses, including practical nursing and personal support worker programs.”
In order to increase access to these education opportunities, Durham College offers both regular as well as flexible course delivery, she explains. “We also work closely with hospitals and long-term care facilities where students have the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world settings.”
Nurses and physicians typically come to mind when Canadians think of their health-care team, but there are other – less visible but no less essential – professions supporting the success of health-care facilities, says Michelle Hutt, executive dean, School of Science and Engineering Technology at Durham College. “There is an urgent demand for professionals who can oversee the efficient and effective upkeep and distribution of equipment, which is why Durham College developed the Honours Bachelor of Health Care Technology Management program.”
This one-of-a-kind four-year degree develops expertise in electronics and biomedical engineering along with management capabilities, she explains. “Students are trained in innovative labs that have the kind of equipment that is found in a hospital or medical care setting.”
In addition, students have the opportunity to analyze real-world case studies and apply their knowledge to create solutions for industry partners, says Ms. Hutt. “This allows them to develop an understanding of the kinds of challenges they might encounter in their careers.”
With stringent safety protocols in place, Durham College has been able to continue offering experiential learning. For paramedic students, theoretical knowledge is complemented with hands-on learning opportunities, first with a simulator and then in a 450+ hour practicum in an ambulance, says Dale Button, coordinator of the paramedic program at Durham College.
The arrival of COVID-19 was closely followed by ambulance staff shortages when some paramedics were getting sick and others had to quarantine, he says. “We had to quickly adapt our course delivery so our students could graduate on time because they were urgently needed.”
Ensuring student success also includes providing them with the tools to navigate potential challenges, such as the high risk of stress and burnout experienced by paramedics. Durham College responded by introducing courses on mindfulness and resiliency techniques as well as implementing a peer support team, says Mr. Button, who also calls for “decreasing the stigma so people are more comfortable seeking help when they experience an acute mental health crisis.”
In response to COVID-19, Durham College has proven to be a stalwart ally dedicated to the success of its students and partners, and continues its efforts to strengthen the health-care system for pandemic recovery and beyond.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Colleges and Institutes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.