Thompson Rivers University has received funding to offer its health care assistant program for employees of residential care facilities. (Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo)

Thompson Rivers University has received funding to offer its health care assistant program for employees of residential care facilities. (Monica Lamb-Yorski file photo)

Thompson Rivers University to deliver health care assistant program on the job

Government funding will provide 110 seats divided between Williams Lake and Kamloops

Employees working in residential care facilities will have access to a new health care assistant (HCA) training program while on the job.

Thompson Rivers University has been awarded funding through the provincial government’s health career access program to fund 110 additional seats in the program between its Williams Lake and Kamloops campuses.

While the students don’t apply to TRU, but directly to a residential care facility, they will still be a student of TRU and have to meet admissions criteria, said Tracy Hoot, Associate Dean at TRU’s School of Nursing.

“Students accessing this program are different than the students accessing our regular health care assistant program,” Hoot explained. “It will have a different schedule and different delivery.”

Rather than take the regular health care assistant program which runs for 27 weeks, this new program could take up to just over year.

That’s because the students will be studying while they continue to work, which Hoot thinks could strengthen their knowledge.

“They will be hired as an employee, come into TRU to take one or two courses at a time for about six weeks, go back to the work environment for a month, then go back for another six weeks to complete another collection of courses,” Hoot explained, noting they will then do a practicum to complete the course.

While in the program, the students will not provide direct care to patients, whereas certified health care assistants do.

Read more: ‘Feels like a dream came true’: Health-care workers receive COVID vaccine in B.C.

Instead, they will be helping the health care assistant.

They won’t be feeding or transferring patients, but can help set up food trays, meet and talk with families and with seniors.

“They are there to support the health care assistants,” Hoot said, noting she already has a small number of employees from Interior Health who live in Williams Lake or 100 Mile House or some other outlying communities who are interested in taking the program.

She also plans to speak with the private facilities to determine their level of interest in the program.

“My hope is that I put the private and public employees into one cohort,” she said, noting her tentative starting date is June 2021 so that gives the private facilities time to do some recruiting.

In total TRU submitted two proposals for Williams Lake and two for Kamloops and all four were accepted by the government for funding.

Associate Dean for three years and a faculty member for more than 30 years, Hoot said she has seen many different initiatives come through.

“This one is really exciting for me because I work very closely with our HCA students through our open learning program. These students are going to be in a facility where they are actually employed.”

Read more: TRU health-care assistant grads hit the ground running, graduating earlier due to COVID-19

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