VCC continuing studies can provide a career in health sciences in a relatively short period of time

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      It’s not always necessary to take a four-year program to escape the grip of a low-wage job.

      At Vancouver Community College, there are continuing-studies programs that offer a pathway to a secure future in a fraction of that time.

      In the health-sciences area, there’s a full-time certificate program for medical-device-reprocessing technicians. Offered every September and February, it only takes four months to complete.

      These technicians—often called MDRTs—learn how to clean, reassemble, and sterilize reusable surgical instruments in hospitals, private surgical clinics, and dental clinics. For three of the four months, students are on a practicum in a hospital setting, where they are paired with a working technician.

      “Our instructors are on the department floor for the entire practicum,” VCC continuing studies health-sciences program coordinator Rebeccah Bennett told the Straight by phone. “We’re the only college in Canada that provides that.”

      According to Bennett, there are small classes of only 14 to 16 students, and the presence of instructors throughout a practicum ensures a high success rate. MDRTs earn about $23 per hour.

      “I would say 90 percent of the students get hired within two months of completing the program,” she said. “There is a huge labour market for MDR technicians right now because a lot of the hospitals are expanding their emergency departments. They’re expanding their operating rooms. And all that means they need more surgical instruments, which need to be cleaned and sterilized.”

      Bennett pointed out that MDRTs play a vital role in patient safety and infection control. That’s because reusable surgical instruments are inserted into the body. She called the MDRT department “the heart of the hospital” because without it, the work would grind to a halt.

      “We always encourage our students to think of the possibility that the surgical instruments that they’re working on may end up being used on a loved one,” she said.

      Dietary aide course offers quick results

      That’s not the only VCC continuing-studies program in health sciences where there’s high demand from employers.

      Bennett said that there’s a five-week dietary-aide course that includes a two-week practicum at a long-term–care facility.

      This course provides students with knowledge and skills to prepare and deliver nutritious food to people in institutional settings. As part of the course, students go on field trips to hospitals and long-term–care facilities, where they can observe on-site kitchen demonstrations. They also become FoodSafe- and WHMIS-certified.

      “When they finish, a lot of the long-term–care facilities pay them $18 an hour,” Bennett said.

      VCC continuing studies also offers health-sciences professional-development courses, ranging from one day to one week, for licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.

      Among the most popular are stand-alone courses in foot-care nursing, IV therapy and insertion, physical assessment for nurses, and nursing leadership and ethics.

      “LPNs will typically get around $25 to $30 [per hour] on the high end,” Bennett said, “but if they take this weeklong foot-care nursing course, they can get up to about $65 an hour doing their own business.”

      In addition, the health-sciences program in continuing studies offers one-day FoodSafe courses taught by retired public-health inspectors, with certificates coming from Vancouver Coastal Health.

      “A lot of people opening restaurants take this course,” Bennett said, “or established restaurants send staff to take the course.”