The Drayton Valley Community Health Foundation will be looking for help from the community to help offer a course for registered nurses at the local hospital.

Carol Vowk, the chair of the board for the volunteer organization, says they are planning on renovating a room to build a simulation lab for nursing students in the hospital itself.

Vowk says this simulation lab will be completely separate from the rooms that are set up for the teaching of licensed practical nurses and health care aides at the Clean Energy Technology Centre. The one in the hospital will have equipment that has been donated by the University of Calgary, which is the university the Town is partnering with along with Alberta Health Services to offer the program.

The goal of offering an RN course in Drayton is to attract people to the community, and maybe retain some students who may have left to take the course elsewhere.

“It’s a way better plan to keep healthcare workers in the community,” she says. “Once they head off to university, they might not come back.”

In total, Vowk says after consulting with the procurement division at AHS as per hospital policy, the cost is estimated to be about $350,000. She says AHS has confirmed that capital planners will be coming out in the beginning of June so they will have a firm number for fundraising.

“All of the fundraising will be done through the foundation, but it won’t be government funding, it’s not AHS that’s funding it, or the provincial government that’s funding it. It will be community dollars.”

Vowk says she does believe that it’s possible to raise enough money to build the simulation lab, but they have approached the Town and Brazeau County for letters of support to help them with that goal. She is proud to say that any improvements that the DVCHF has helped make to the hospital have always been funded from community donations.

In the fall of 2024, the Town will be training the first round of students for the program. The first year is spent in the classroom, but after that the students need something to practice on.

“Most of it will be done at the CETC for the first year,” says Vowk.

Vowk says that gives them about a year to put the lab together. Once the lab is completed, Vowk says students will get to use the lab along with their onsite experience to finish their education. She says students will also have to go to some other facilities to get experience in areas that Drayton Valley does not provide.

“If they need to do some training in pediatrics, or some sort of surgery, they might go to Stony Plain or Wainwright or Wetaskiwin for further help,” she says. “But the sim lab will be a key piece for them to work over there as well.”

Vowk says the program being offered in Drayton Valley is unique. Wainwright offered the first Grow Your Own program, taking in their last batch of students in 2023. 

“We’re the next community to do it, so that’s really awesome,” says Vowk.

The plan is to kind of mirror what Wainwright is doing on a smaller scale, but they also want to offer something a little bit different. She says there has only ever been one other simulation lab built in rural communities in Alberta. That lab is located in Sundre and has seen great success says Vowk.

The only difference between Sundre and Drayton is that the Sundre sim lab is not located in the hospital. Vowk says by putting it in the hospital, they can make it available to other healthcare workers who may want to practice, such as doctors or nurses once the RN program is done.

Placing it in the hospital will also mean that AHS will be providing the supplies for the program and will be responsible for cleaning, which will help to save on some costs. 

“We’re the first place that has done [these two programs] together,” says Vowk. “It’s a really, really great opportunity for us.”

She says the sim lab may also offer the opportunity to make the Drayton Valley hospital a teaching hospital in the future. Vowk says a teaching hospital would bring in a lot more healthcare staff and revitalize the hospital.

As they are still working on finalizing the costs, there is no start date yet.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 06, 2024 at 09:21

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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