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The students made an impassioned plea to instructors to allow them to continue their training without disruption. They penned a letter to the College, and rallied support from their fellow nurses at KGH, to demonstrate both the need for their skills on the front line, and the profuse safety protocols they’ll be following to minimize risk.
“Our first priority is always the health and safety of our students,” says Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at the College. “We took the time to consider the matter in great detail with Interior Health. They determined and advised us that the risk to students was low and that as long as proper safety protocols are followed, proper PPE is worn, and all the right steps are taken that our students are very much needed and should be allowed to complete the final stages of their program if they choose to. We also ensured students knew they had the option to say no if they didn’t feel comfortable going out on practicum or preceptorship right now.”
After being given the go-ahead from Interior Health, the College allowed the PN students to return to their preceptorships to complete the final days of their program. All 28 of them chose to take the step.
Kemp and her peers have high praise for both their mentors from Interior Health and their instructors at OC for the way in which they’ve prepared students to deal with the added stress of learning and working in a pandemic.
“The nurses we’re doing our preceptorships with have been incredible,” says Kemp. “It takes a special kind of person to do your job well in a situation like this, while also providing those learning opportunities, taking the time to really prepare us for what we’ll soon be doing on our own.
“I’m very grateful for the excellent training I’ve received on practicum and at OC, and now I’m just looking forward to getting out into the workforce and supporting those nurses who need us right now, who need the relief. We need them today and tomorrow they’ll need us, is the way I look at it.”
The PN students aren’t the only ones stepping up during the crisis. Students in the Health Care Assistant (HCA) program have also stepped forward to continue their practical training if they choose to.
Adds Moritz: “Our students are part of the health care system and for them to be out there at this time is a testament to their dedication to a career in helping others. While health care workers are always needed, now is the time they are needed most.”
It’s a message echoed by Interior Health.
“We’re fortunate to have access to well-trained graduates and soon-to-be graduates from Okanagan College to fill the needs for front-line health care professionals. We have scores of OC alumni working with us, and it’s inspiring to hear that those following in their footsteps are equally as passionate and dedicated to providing outstanding care in our communities,” says Mal Griffin, VP of Human Resources at Interior Health.
“These nursing students are truly an inspiration,” says Maxine DeHart, Campaign Ambassador for the Our Students, Your Health campaign to build a state-of-the-art new Health Sciences Centre at Okanagan College.
“As a community we are all in awe of our front line health care professionals and to see this same commitment in the students is incredible.”
Reflecting on the importance of Okanagan College’s Health Sciences Centre, DeHart says “the impact of COVID-19 on our community has made me reflect hard on the importance of health care education. Now, more than ever, we need to invest in the next generation of health care workers. This $18.9-million Centre is vitally important to our community’s health. These are challenging times for us all, but I hope the community will continue to get behind our fundraising campaign so we can open the doors in September.
“Help us train the next generation. These are the people who will care for us. We never know when we will need that support, whoever we are.”
To learn more, or to donate, visit www.OurStudentsYourHealth.ca.