Manitoba spending $12.5M to develop health care training facility at Red River College Polytechnic

The Manitoba government is spending $12.5 million to develop a health and community services simulation centre at Red River College Polytechnic, creating more training opportunities for health care workers.

The new centre will hold equipment and technology that will reflect and simulate actual health care scenarios which will better prepare students for clinical work, Premier Heather Stefanson said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“This new multi-purpose facility will support 115 new nursing training seats, as well as other health care disciplines such as health care aides and advanced care paramedics,” she said.

“This will really, really help on the practical side of their training and will really get them prepared.”

The simulation centre will hopefully open its doors in the next two years, the premier said.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson says the new funding will create space for 115 new nursing seats. (CBC)

Melissa Ciurko, a nursing student at RRC Polytechnic, said she’s recently taken part in a simulation where a patient was experiencing a drug overdose, and called it “fundamental” to her learning.

“We were able to work through an acute life-threatening scenario in a space that was supportive to our learning without causing direct patient harm,” Ciurko said at the news conference.

“I now feel more confident and competent for when I’ll become a registered nurse, and I’m faced with a similar situation in real life.”

Last year, the province committed to adding 400 new nurse training seats in the province.

The seats announced on Tuesday will exceed the province’s commitment, because the province has spend more than $30 million to create 289 new seats at six post-secondary institutions in addition to the ones announced Tuesday, Stefanson said.

‘Medium-to-long-term solution’: Thompson

The announcement came on the same day that a Winnipeg physician held a news conference to share how his emergency department is reaching its breaking point and, for the first time, he’s thought of quitting. 

Dr. Kristjan Thompson, an emergency room physician at St. Boniface Hospital and former president of Doctors Manitoba shared that many colleagues have left in the last few months due to unreasonable working conditions and significant burnout and moral distress.

At that news conference, Thompson was asked about the new nursing seats and the simulation centre at Red River College.

Dr. Kristjan Thompson, the former president of Doctors Manitoba, says more needs to be done to retain highly qualified nurses who are leaving the profession because of burnout. (Zoom)

The doctor welcomed the news, but says more must be done to retain the very experienced health care workers who are leaving the field in droves.

“Training and recruiting are absolutely extremely important steps, but an emergency room nurse doesn’t grow on a tree. It takes years to develop those skills and and the requisite knowledge and expertise to to be able to work in that role,” Thompson said.

“It’s a medium-to-long-term solution and is so, so critical and so I applaud the efforts of government — it’s so great to see, but we do need to focus also on retention and we need to focus on the root causes of burnout, which we know are workplace issues, systemic issues, and look at improving the institutional barriers.”

Stefanson said she knows retention is just as important as training new nurses.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon added she will roll out a “very comprehensive plan” in the next week or so to address recruitment, training and retention.

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