The small community along the Trans-Canada Highway between Brooks and Strathmore played host to more than 60 post-secondary students studying medicine, nursing, respiratory and physio therapies and emergency medical services March 4-5.
The students came from the universities of Calgary and Alberta, Mount Royal University, Medicine Hat College and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
RPAP holds four such skills weekends in rural communities throughout the province every year.
One of the unique opportunities for post-secondary students in Bassano was being able to make use of the computerized mannequin patient simulator at the high school and take part in a simulated cardiac medical intervention. This was a first for an RPAP weekend where the simulator already existed in the community, as usually organizers are reliant upon an organization such as STARS providing such training technology.
“This was very unique,” agrees Rosemary Burness, medical students’ initiative co-ordinator with RPAP. “There was a teacher there who is trained to use (the simulator). We’ve never had this opportunity before in all the years I’ve been involved,” she adds.
Students took part in intensive skills development working their way in groups through six stations that included working on scenarios with the simulator, physiotherapy assessments, IV and interosseous access, suturing, spinal restrictions and airway management.
Amidst the skills development and hands-on work, they were able to learn more about the community of Bassano and surrounding area by touring the health facility, enjoying a community-hosted dinner and breakfast, seeing the Bassano Dam and touring the Gentherm Global Power Technologies Manufacturing Plant.
Burness says overall the weekend went really well and feedback received from the students on evaluation forms was positive.
“Eighty-three per cent (of the students) said they had changed their views in a positive manner about working in rural Alberta,” added Burness. “Seventy-seven per cent said it had tweaked their interest in working in this community (Bassano).”
Every student loved the social aspect of the weekend and felt officials in Bassano had been excellent hosts.
“By Sunday morning, several students had contacted the site leader and talked to her about doing their clinical placements in Bassano,” says Burness.
Tom Rose, Bassano’s mayor, said the weekend was a way to showcase to health-care students that working in rural areas can be a possibility for their future careers.
“It went excellent,” he adds, especially considering community members organized their portion of the weekend’s events with about three weeks’ notice.
“We had a great group of volunteers who pulled it off,” adds Rose. “It really did open up the eyes of these young adults, and we all were so impressed with how it went. It was exciting for all of us.”
Sabine Nasse, CEO for the Town of Bassano, was heavily involved in the organizing of the community events.
“Most of these young adults were from the city. Maybe only a quarter were from the rural area,” says Nasse. “I think they were most impressed with what a small town has to offer and how it’s a different way of living.”
Nasse was happy to see connections being made and students expressing an interest in doing practicums in the community. She adds Dr. Jamie Richards is always open to hosting students and helping them get the hands-on training they need at various times throughout the year.
“It was a way for these students to see what we can offer,” she adds about hosting the RPAP skills weekend. “It’s a not-so-hectic lifestyle. To be part of a community, see how it grows and how everyone is helping everybody ... It was really rewarding for me as an organizer.”
Ron Wickson, chair of the Bassano Health Foundation, thought the weekend was “absolutely superb.”
“It was a great opportunity for them to get a taste of what it would be like to work in the health-care profession,” he adds. “This was our first time hosting it, and we know about the previous events put on in our region, and we had the advantage of saying we can do this. It was a really good gathering and we had a tremendous volunteer group.”
Connie Goudie is a teacher at Bassano School who works with the simulation lab. She worked the computer controls for the skills training sessions during the RPAP weekend.
She says it was nice to see the simulator being used more widely and in a greater capacity than it is usually put to the test when used by just the high-school students taking health-care education as an option. Students in high school learn more about basic vital signs and the cardiovascular system resulting in basic knowledge. It is a good way for them to determine whether they want to pursue the health-care field after high-school graduation.
“The simulator was used in a different way with the (post-secondary) students. It was nice to see it being used to its full potential,” she adds.
Goudie is pleased by hosting the RPAP event, it was an opportunity to showcase the simulator and raise awareness about its uses in the area. She is hopeful it could be used more widely in the future.