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Post-secondary placements cancelled for Laurentian students studying healthcare
Laurentian University's Parker Building in Sudbury. Mar. 17/20 (Ian Campbell/CTV Northern Ontario)
SUDBURY -- Post-secondary students at Laurentian University are going to have to wait to finish their education as placements have been cancelled at Health Sciences North due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a note to nursing students from the university, it was revealed Health Sciences North expanded visitor restrictions to include learners until further notice.
"This includes learners from all disciplines at all hospital locations, including off-site. This decision is being made to ensure they are conserving PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and optimizing their workforce. Exceptions are being made for residents, as well as students in their final education program year."
For 3rd year nursing student Montana McCulloch, who had been left in limbo waiting for some clarification, the news comes as a relief.
"I understand the healthcare professionals have to step up and do their jobs and go to the hospital to help everyone there, but right now, we are students. So, we're not yet healthcare professionals, so to me, sending a lot of students into the hospital is just creating a greater risk to this pandemic. We could bring something in or we could bring something out to our families, so it's kind of tricky in that sense," said McCulloch.
According to students, first-year students are expected to do placements at local nursing homes while second through fourth-year students work at the local hospital, Health Sciences North.
There had been some confusion among students over what the next steps might be.
On Sunday night, Laurentian University Vice-President of Academic and Provost Serge Demers advised students, particularly those in health-related fields, to continue their placements and hours at the clinical site's direction.
"This decision was made in the context of the overall University strategy to reduce large groups and maintain social distancing," Demers writes. "The placement settings are, by their nature, in a low-density setting. That being said, we respect student rights on this issue. We will do our best to support those students who decide not to stay in practice at this time."
Demers adds they can't guarantee there won't be a delay for any student who doesn't complete the program.
"Health Sciences North will have a tough time allowing students in because they are low on resources right now, so it just seems tricky. If you're low on resources, trying to keep everyone distant and trying to keep immune compromised patients safe, to send in a bunch of students when it is important to have clinical for learning, but at this time during a worldwide pandemic I think it's important to keep everyone safe," said McCulloch prior to learning about the cancellation.
Now, she says the whole thing comes as relief but it's left her with questions in terms of what the next steps might be in finishing her academic year.
As the note indicated, residents will be allowed to continue their training at Health Sciences North.
CTV News reached Northern Ontario School of Medicine Dean Dr. Sarita Verma earlier this week, via Skype, from her home in self-isolation.
"For our residents who have their MDs but are training to become certified, family medicine or in specialties, they're continuing their work unless the clinical site tells them not to come in. And that's because this is also an important part of their work, and of course, they are dedicated health professionals, like our clinical faculty who want to help and want to be a part of sustaining the system," said Dr. Verma. "The system needs them right now actually because everybody is rapidly getting tired and also people in the healthcare professions are also contracting COVID-19."
Dr. Verma says she's even been hearing about students who have been going in to help healthcare professionals with their errands and their childcare so they can remain at the hospital.
She adds they are also protecting those who are at risk due to underlying conditions, such as diabetes or those who might have issues with their immune system.
"What amazing people, eh? That is just, that's the north for you. For one thing, because they are really committed to our communities, but that's also the health professionals in them that are just remarkable, admirable people," said Dr. Verma.
Schools have already moved to an online model so students can complete the rest of their classes.
Students tell CTV they are hoping for further clarification after the Laurentian University Senate meetings Tuesday afternoon.