Demographics create opportunities in health care

The Medical Laboratory Technology program at Cambrian College is a three-year program that provides students with the skills to analyze and interpret scientific data to diagnose and treat diseases.

Cambrian College grads in demand in the workplace

The combination of an aging population, high rates of obesity, smoking and chronic diseases in Northern Ontario is creating an increasing number of career opportunities in health-care for the region’s youth.

According to the Northern Policy Institute, individuals aged 65 and older will make up almost 30 per cent of the total population in Northern Ontario by 2036, compared with about 24 per cent in Ontario as a whole.

“Health care is exploding,” said Lisa Schell, dean of health sciences, nursing and emergency services at Cambrian College in Sudbury. “It’s a job that’s always going to be needed. If you’re passionate about helping people and you want to be part of an ever-changing field, health care, emergency services and nursing are excellent options to consider. They’re fast-paced and you’re always learning something new.”

According to Schell, there are approximately 1,100 students enrolled in Cambrian College’s health sciences, nursing and emergency services programs, accounting for one-quarter of the college’s total enrollment.

The college prepares students for a wide range of health-care roles, graduating both registered and practical nurses, dental hygienists and assistants, paramedics, diagnostic imaging technicians and technologists, medical laboratory technologists, and personal support workers.

A high percentage of students secure employment following graduation, said Schell.

Balancing program offerings and enrollment with employment projections is the responsibility of the college’s Planning and Research Department.

“We look at labour market information and Stats Can projections,” said Amanda Paquette, the college’s manager of institutional research. “We use an economics modeling tool, labour force surveys and Stats Can data to determine projections for the number of jobs in the region. We also review stats on the programs that students are applying for to get an idea of what’s driving student demand.”

Additional market intelligence and advice is obtained from health-care employer representatives who sit on the college’s many advisory boards.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in the health-care sector,” said Paquette. “That includes nursing and all of the other programs we offer.”

One of the fastest growing health-care employment opportunities in Northern Ontario is for personal support workers.

Until last year, Cambrian College’s personal support worker (PSW) program had one intake per year and limited enrollment to 55 students, “but this past year, we had a January intake for the very first time, and it proved to be extremely successful,” said Schell. “We had 21 students enter the program in January.”

The eight-month program includes hands-on training in the college’s 1,200-square foot PSW simulation lab, two placements in a long-term care home, and one in a hospital or community setting. Admission requirements include a high school diploma or mature student status, proof of immunization, CPR and Standard First Aid competency and a criminal record check. Provided there are a sufficient number of applicants, Cambrian can also offer the PSW program in Espanola and Little Current.

While most PSW students are happy to get out into the workforce following the completion of the eight-month program, those who are more ambitious are able to bridge into the second semester of the college’s Practical Nursing program.

Enrollment limitations in the college’s health-care programs are influenced by several factors, including placement opportunities, the employment market and lab capacity.

“We would be happy to take in more medical laboratory technician students, for example, but there just aren’t sufficient placement opportunities at Health Sciences North, so we limit enrollment to a number that corresponds with where we’re able to place them,” said Schell.

Cambrian’s four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is offered in collaboration with Laurentian University’s School of Nursing, which confers the degree.

“All of the classes are on our campus,” said Schell. “It’s just a question of which building they want to go to. The programs are exactly the same. The standards are the same. The entrance requirements are the same, and the tuition is the same. We have a memorandum of understanding with Laurentian and we collaborate on everything, including the curriculum.

“There’s always a need for nurses in the system, whether in Sudbury or elsewhere. They write their national licensing exam – the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) – and can work anywhere in Canada.”

Nursing is a highly visible profession and everyone knows about it, but there are a variety of other less known career opportunities in the health-care sector that students should consider. A good example is the Medical Laboratory Technology program, a three-year (six semester) program that provides students with the medical detective skills to analyze and interpret scientific data to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Students take courses in hematology, microbiology, chemistry and histotechnology, spend the final two semesters of the program doing clinical practicum training in a lab, and write the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Sciences certification exam, which qualifies them to seek employment in a hospital or private lab.

The medical laboratory technology lab at Cambrian is a state-of-the-art facility with stainless steel tables, chemical baths, microscopes and fridges and freezers to preserve sample fluids and tissues.

The majority of Cambrian’s students are from Sudbury, but the college also attracts students from across Northern Ontario, southern Ontario and internationally.

While many are straight out of high school, there are also more and more mature students looking to acquire the skills and qualifications for a rewarding career in the health-care sector.

Cambrian College programs:
– Bachelor of Science in Nursing
– Dental Assisting
– Dental Hygiene
– Diagnostic Medical Sonography-Ultrasound
– Magnetic Resonance Imaging Graduate Certificate
– Medical Laboratory Technology
– Medical Radiation Technology
– Paramedic and Advanced Care Paramedic
– Personal Support Worker
– Physical Fitness Management
– Practical Nursing

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