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USask hands-on practicums a no-go during COVID-19 pandemic

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WATCH: Some University of Saskatchewan programs have modified student placements due to the coronavirus pandemic – Apr 17, 2020

Hands-on student practicums — add it to the catalogue of things that aren’t going to happen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some University of Saskatchewan programs have modified student placements, as working in close quarters with industry professionals is pretty high on the list of pandemic no-nos.

The College of Dentistry called off clinical rotations in mid-March, moving classroom education online. As a result, some students haven’t completed practicum requirements, said dentistry dean Dr. Douglas Brothwell.

READ MORE: Bursaries in the works for Saskatchewan post-secondary students impacted by pandemic

“It’s not about whether you did exactly the right number of days [of practicum],” Brothwell told Global News.
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“It’s, ‘Did the student do a sufficient amount and prove that they have the skills and the knowledge and the abilities that are required to be deemed to be competent and ready to go out and provide patient care in the way that it needs to be provided according to professional standards?’”

Dentistry students undertake clinical care in the third and fourth years, so this year’s graduating class won’t be without real-world experience. However, some students have missed out on brief placements with specialists or providing care for people in Saskatoon’s inner city.

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“COVID only affected our fourth-year students by about a month,” Brothwell said.

“Assuming that they pass [final] exams … we will have very good graduation rates this year.”

The university’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine has moved its clinical rotations online.

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“The goal is to still deliver the … clinical material that they can work their way through in a diagnostic approach, be evaluated on that, [and] have feedback real-time with our clinicians just as if they were here,” said Dr. Steve Manning, associate dean of clinical programs.

“The obvious hole in that is that they’re not working on the live animal with us present to both assess them and help them. That’s inevitable.”

READ MORE: Some Saskatchewan vets mum on suspected animal cruelty: survey

Instead, the college’s veterinarians host webinars, doing virtual rounds with students and presenting real case scenarios.

“We are comfortable that our students — all of them — when they’re done, assuming they’re all successful in these rotations at the end, will be competent, entry-level veterinarians able to go out there and practice,” Manning said.

In addition to practicums, many students seek summer jobs related to their studies.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan (WRSOS) has modified its summer student positions to abide by pandemic guidelines.

“We’ve been amazed at the quality of the applications we’ve received this year because so many students are looking for work,” said WRSOS president Bonnie Dell.

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“The fact that we have something where you can work from home has really set us apart.”

This year, students will respond to calls on the organization’s hotline remotely.

“For the first time, we’re also doing an online orientation via webinar, including wildlife rescue training that we’ve never attempted online before,” Dell said.

“It’s been very challenging, but we’re excited for it.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.