Spotlight: Health Careers programs encompass several areas
With 22 faculty and four program areas, Northern Lakes College’s Health Careers sector is thriving, the college’s board of governors was told at their regular May 15 meeting.
The sector includes programs in Practical Nursing, Emergency Medical Responder, Emergency Medical Technician and Health Care Aide, said Bonnie Porat, Health Careers and Program Development Director.
“We can’t operate the Health Careers program without the approval of outside bodies,” said Porat. These, she said, include the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta, the Alberta College of Paramedics, the Canadian Medical Association and Alberta Health Services.
Allyson Goyette, Clinical Co-ordinator for the Practical Nurse program, said the two-year program, which can be split into four years, is designed to prepare students for national licensing exams, a post-graduate requirement.
It also provides good groundwork for those wanting to continue their education in the field.
“(It) is recognized as essentially the first two years towards a Bachelor of Nursing degree,” Goyette noted, adding the skills are invaluable.
“An LPN does about 90 per cent of what an RN can do.”
The 86-credit program involves 990 course hours and 778 practicum hours.
“The feedback we get from employers is that our nurses are ready to hit the ground running,” Goyette noted.
This, she said, is borne out by the fact that the percentage of those passing the licensing exam is 92 per cent provincially, 83 per cent nationally and 100 for the college.
“There are eight students and one instructor at a site, so they get (attention),” said Goyette.
Currently, NLC is working on a collaborative curriculum with Northwest, Lakeland, Keyano and Portage Colleges.
One of the challenges of the program is the area of clinical placements, since NLC competes with other colleges for spots, so the college has become creative in getting those, said Goyette.
For example, one placement has to have a mental health focus, so the solution to that is to have students do their practicum in halfway houses or First Nations health facilities.
The Health Care Aide program is a blended- delivery, 286-hour program giving students 24 credits, said Shona Hommy-Bugarin, Car- eer Programs Co-or- dinator Health Careers.
Those already working in the field have the option of doing the e-STEP (Employed Student Tutored Education) Program, a one- year, part-time program delivered by distance, which allows them to work as they study.
“We have had tremendous uptake on this,” noted Hommy-Bugarin.
There is also a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition, which is a three-month part- time preparation for those previously trained or already highly experienced. Those taking PLAR do have to write and pass knowledge assessments, said Hommy-Bugarin.
She said staff see a wide student age range in the program, which currently has 73 students.
“We have 16-year-olds and we have 65-year- olds.”
This year, the college is offering the program for High Prairie School Division students as a dual credit program, which follows the full- time program model.
“The first offering, we had 20 complete (the program),” said Hommy-Bugarin.
As with the LPN program, finding placements is a challenge, she noted.
The Emergency Medical Responder program is a six-week, 105-hour program which is a prerequisite for those wanting to become an Emergency Medical Technician. Graduates can write the Alberta College of Paramedics’ registration exam, and usually work in pre-hospital settings.
Emergency Medical Technicians, on the other hand, is a one- year, part-time program required before one can go on to an Alberta Paramedic program.
Hommy-Bugarin said there is a unique feature of the NLC program.
“We offer Anatomy and Physiology, and Pathophysiology, with our EMT program, so students know not only the why but also the how (of illness and injury),” she noted, adding that feature has garnered positive feedback from employers.
Hommy-Bugarin said the program’s challenges include an ongoing need for meeting accreditation requirements, as well as student recruitment.
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