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Coronavirus: McMaster nursing students ask for early certification to join fight against COVID-19

Frontline health-care workers beginning to fall ill with COVID-19
Frontline health-care workers beginning to fall ill with COVID-19

Nursing students at McMaster University are the latest health-care students to ask for early certification to join the fight against the novel coronavirus and ease the burden on the health-care system

Laura Freeman, a fourth-year studying at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., is one of those students.

Freeman told The Roy Green Show on Global News radio Saturday she went as far as to launch a petition for early nursing certification that she said is finally starting to see some results.

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“We were just asking universities to make sure that they did what was right and try and send our information as soon as (is) feasible for them,” she said, adding that certified nurses were “crucial at this time with a respiratory illness like (COVID-19).”

“Guidelines are constantly changing. We’re trying to set everything up as best we can with what we have. And the only thing that I’ve noticed consistently is change.”

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Under normal circumstances, Freeman said nursing students would be required to complete between 350 and 360 hours in clinical consolidation before being reviewed by a panel that included nurses and the school’s dean, who would assess them and then decide whether a student was eligible to write their exam.

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Currently, the College of Nurses of Ontario is granting temporary certifications to recent graduates, but not to those in their fourth year of training.

If Freeman’s petition is accepted, nursing students will be allowed temporary certifications without having to take their registration exams.

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With nurses being so overworked, Freeman said she was looking forward to being fully utilized and being able to fully apply her skills to help others.

Freeman said she took the petition down on Friday, “out of respect” for her school after she was contacted by the dean.

Earlier this week, the regulatory body for Ontario’s respiratory therapists also said they were fast-tracking the certification of final-year students to help keep Canada’s health-care system from becoming overwhelmed.

The College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario has reached out to the seven programs that train students for the profession and asked if those expected to graduate this year can get to work immediately, Kevin Taylor, the organization’s CEO and registrar, told The Canadian Press.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario college sends respiratory therapists to work ahead of schedule

The 117 students — a mere 10 weeks away from graduation — would be put to work alongside 3,650 respiratory therapists already working in Ontario, who manage the technical side of treating respiratory conditions that include helping patients breathe through oxygen or intubation and ventilation.

“If there’s going to be a shortage of ventilator operators, tapping into this year’s graduating workforce is the best resource we have right now,” Taylor said.

Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia College of Nursing has developed a rapid licensing process to help nurses who retired within the last five years return to work.

Thousands of current and former nurses, doctors and other health-care workers from across the country have answered their governments’ call, cutting their retirements short to help Canada fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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Several weeks ago, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said he was “proud to be a Quebecer” after announcing that over 10,000 people responded to a call from the provincial government, inviting anyone with health-care experience who wanted to help with the COVID-19 pandemic to contact them.

At the request of Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, the province’s College of Physicians and Surgeons began implementing “emergency registration” and emailed hundreds of physicians who had retired within the last two years asking them to renew their licences.

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To date, Canada has 5,501 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Canadian government’s most recent data said 60 people have died from the virus, while 471 have recovered.

— With files from The Canadian Press.