Health science academy floated by SD73 could help curb healthcare staffing crisis – Kamloops News

School District 73 is looking at developing a health science academy, a career development program that could see school-age students exploring all areas of health careers — and potentially help to remedy a shortage of healthcare workers in the Kamloops area.

Kerry Gairdner, district vice-principle of career programs, said the district isn’t sure how the program would be structured and is first focused on seeing if there is interest from students.

“They’d be immersed in different areas such as respiratory therapy, nursing, healthcare assistant, emergency services, sonography, and they would stay in the class for a full semester — they don’t go to other classes,” she said.

“Then also, the hands-on portion where they’re actually out in the community sampling those different things.”

Gairdner said the potential program would help to expand existing partnerships with Interior Health and Thompson Rivers University.

“Right now we also run a Discover Day in healthcare, and we’ve partnered with Interior Health and Thompson Rivers University,” she said.

“Definitely the students would be going into those places to have their hands-on and get that experiential learning.”

Rick Kienlein, director of secondary learning services for SD73, said consideration is given to labor markets and public and student interest when setting up career development events and programs.

“We also look at who our community partners are that are available, and then we create events in partnership with them for these students to access,” he said.

Kienlein said the district’s Discover Day in healthcare, an event where students are taken to the nursing simulation lab at TRU to hear from healthcare professionals, was at full capacity this year. He said career development programs are generally dual-credit, meaning the students get both high school and post-secondary credit, but trades programs tend to be the most popular.

“These programs lead often to a specific credential, whether it be a trades credential, whether it be a full semester or two semesters of work in a specific trade-related area,” he said.

“Or say, for example, we have a healthcare assistant program agreement with TRU. So it’s occupation focused, our programs.”

Kienlein said the school district applies for funding each year from a Ministry of Education and Child Care dual-credit grant.

“We can claim the courses that they take at Thompson Rivers University as also grade 12 courses. So similar, and actually part of the the regular funding grant that the district gets, they are funded accordingly,” Kienlein said.

“Because [students] have to apply they have to meet eligibility criteria, if they’re accepted candidates into these programs and they participate in dual credit, the operating grant through the ministry pays for their tuition.”

Kienlein said the school district also applies for a Skilled Trades BC Grant, which typically brings in about $190,000 in funding each year.

Other funding for the programs come from associated fees, community partnerships, donations and a budgeting process that is determined by a per-student and per-course funding model.

Trina Cassidy, SD73 CFO and secretary treasurer, said the district has budgeted approximately $1.7 million for career development — $1.1 million for staffing and about $650,000 for professional development, student activities, purchased services, computers and administration.

Rhonda Nixon, SD73 superintendent, said part of the programs’ draw for students is the ability to work alongside actual industry professionals.

“Because they’re standing beside people who do the work, a respiratory technologist in the case of the hospital simulation, or a nurse or nurse practitioner, care aide, seeing how people work as a team,” she said.

“They’re working with real people, even though these are lab prototypes, if you will, but they’re able to sense what it would be like if they were working on a person in surgery.”