Okanagan College to graduate hundreds of new Health Care Assistants through innovative provincial program
When 29-year-old Shanise Scherk graduates this month as a Health Care Assistant (HCA), she is excited to start caring for seniors and other clients living in their homes.
While working full time since high school, Scherk had always dreamed of having a career in health care. So, when she learned about a new Okanagan College program that offered paid training and work experience to become an HCA, she jumped at the chance to follow that dream.
“It was such an incredible opportunity to receive an education and get hired right away,” says Scherk, who has accepted a position with Interior Health.
“I love making people smile, feel heard and listened to and important in that moment, and I look forward to doing that in my career as a Health Care Assistant.”
HCAs, or care aides, are one of several frontline health-care positions that were under strain before the pandemic only to be exacerbated over the last two years.
Seeing an urgent need for more HCAs to support long-term care, assisted living and home care settings, the B.C. government created the Health Care Access Program (HCAP) program. The program allows qualified applicants to start in a health care support worker position and receive paid training that leads to full qualification as an HCA.
Scherk completed her HCA education in OC’s state-of-the-art Health Sciences Centre, located on the Kelowna campus.
“I feel honoured to be part of the first to experience this program. The Centre is amazing and we had great instructors and access to technology,” says Scherk.
Okanagan College received funding for an additional 210 HCA students this year through HCAP and another 210 students for next year. These extra seats are on top of the College’s regular HCA programming resulting in more than 650 Health Care Assistants graduating in the next two years.
“The HCAP program is a very innovative approach to filling a significant need in our communities,” says Cathy Farrow, Chair of OC's HCA program.
Farrow credits the B.C. government for coming up with a model that allows people who may not be able to afford quitting their work for full-time school a viable alternative.
Farrow adds that HCAP is an example of Okanagan College responding quickly to community needs. The new program nearly doubles the capacity of the College's HCA programming and is a mix of online and in-person with cohorts running throughout the Okanagan to attract people from a range of geographical areas.
In addition to filling a community need, HCAP offers an entry point for students who may continue on to more complex nursing roles. Danni Ritchey is graduating from HCAP but has plans to return to school and become a Practical Nurse after a year of working in home support.
“The Health Care Assistant program sets me up to be an amazing nurse. You have more bedside care and client-centred skills before entering nursing,” says Ritchey, who is 20 years old and also hired by Interior Health to provide community care.
Ritchey says she is passionate about helping seniors live independently longer, a role that pays its own rewards by seeing the gratitude her clients express from helping with even the smallest of tasks.
Ritchey knows first-hand how a simple gesture can change a person’s outlook. She underwent surgery at four years old and remembers a nurse steadfastly holding her hand.
“I want to be that hand for someone else,” recalls Ritchey.
Yvonne Moritz, OC’s interim Dean of Health and Social Development, says she is proud of all the upcoming HCA graduates.
“It's been very inspiring to see the graduates apply their knowledge and skills that they learned. They are an incredibly caring and committed group of students and I have every confidence they will be excellent caregivers to the people they’re supporting.”
The Okanagan College Foundation is inviting the public to help them reach their fundraising goal to complete and equip the new Health Sciences Centre and continue educating critical frontline health-care professionals. To learn more, click here.
To learn more about HCAP, click here.
To explore OC’s Health Care Assistant Certificate, visit this link.
Tags: Health Care Assistant, Health and Social Development, Health Sciences Centre, OC Foundation, Inside OC
April 4, 2023
Q: What's your name? A: Ruth Gabriela Melo Flores Q: What's your hometown? A: Quito – Ecuador – South America Q: How did you end up at Okanagan College? A: Well, I studied for a bachelor's degree in Law in Ecuador. Then, I worked for a while and got my Master's degree in Government and Culture of Organizations at the University of Pamplona. When I returned to my country, professional opportunities arose for me. I mean, a Master's degree improved my career. Spain helped me develop ...Read more...
June 7, 2022
Grads of Okanagan College’s Animation Diploma program are finding their skills have never been in higher demand. First- and second-year students showed samples of their artwork and demo reels to industry partners at OC’s annual Animation Industry Night on May 17. “Lots of the work was very professional,” says James Wood, Chair of Okanagan College’s Animation Department. “Our program is short, but intense. The instructors make sure the students have a realistic understanding of what they need do to succeed in a competitive and demanding wo...Read more...
May 30, 2022
Business students from Okanagan College are once again able to travel to Jyväskylä, Finland to experience an international summer school at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences. Finland’s education system is widely regarded as one of the best in the world. OC Business Professor Blair Baldwin, who has taught Services Design at JAMK for several summers, says working in Finland has helped him innovate and create new teaching methodologies. “JAMK employs experiential learning across its curriculum,” he says. “They stress critical thinkin...Read more...
May 27, 2022
Okanagan College students will once again be competing for the Canadian title after qualifying for the Enactus National Exposition with a first-place finish in their league during the semi-final round. Enactus teams at post-secondary institutions across Canada competed virtually earlier this month, and Okanagan College scooped up top position in the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge, and runner-up in the Scotiabank Climate Action Challenge for the Unusually Good Food Co. project. It also included national runner-up in Shaw and RBC accelerators...Read more...