‘It’s really frustrating’: Ontario Tech nursing student pushes for lab use amid pandemic

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Ontario Tech nursing students call for access to labs
Some nursing students at Ontario Tech University say they're not being afforded the same opportunities as their peers at other institutions. – Jan 20, 2021

A nursing student at Ontario Tech University has started a petition calling on the institution to open up its simulation labs. It comes as students at other schools, including Durham College, have permitted students to attend lab classes.

Graham Pegg, a first-year nursing student, says students at Ontario Tech are not being afforded the same opportunities as their peers at other institutions.

“It’s really frustrating,” he said.

“Everybody knows that university costs a pretty penny, to say the least, and I think everyone deserves the education they pay for.”

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Lori Livingston, Ontario Tech provost and vice-president academic, says the university made the decision to restrict lab access because the majority of its students commute from out of town and could pose a higher risk when it comes to virus transmission.

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“If we were to bring the students, the staff and the faculty, and there was a case identified, that would actually shut down all of our instruction for all of our students for a two-week period,” Livingston said.

“It’s just, from our perspective, too risky.”

Pegg says since students have been learning from home, they’ve been instructed to purchase printable cut-outs from a children’s education website. He says the cut-outs are intended to be a temporary solution for mannequins used in simulation labs, which the student says are essential for his education.

“A lot of us were wondering what kind of things we would learn from a paper cut-out,” Pegg said.

Read more: Man dead after industrial accident at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, police say

The mannequins used in labs are able to simulate specific blood pressure, respiratory rates and other vital signs.

Students, who Global News has agreed not to identify due to fear of academic reprisal, told their peers in a text conversation, “I’ve tried to remain pretty positive throughout the school year but I think flat stanley has broken me.”

Another said, “I legitimately feel insulted by this.”

Pegg says he fears the restrictions will have an impact on his upcoming clinical placement.

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“It’s a little frightening to know that you’re getting into that clinical placement and you might not be as competent as you should be.”

The university says it is working on a contingency plan that would allow students to make up the lab time lost in one week, through an intensive plan.

Read more: ‘Heartbreaking news’ — Ontario Tech students react to construction worker death

Livingston adds that the Durham College nursing program is only two years, as opposed to Ontario Tech’s four-year program, and says time is on students’ side.

“The program is four years long because we need to be instructed for four years,” Pegg said.

Other institutions, including the University of Toronto, Trent University and McMaster University, are currently keeping their labs open for students.

Pegg’s petition has collected more than 500 signatures.

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