Red River College to train students for supervised work in personal care homes

Staff at personal care homes in Manitoba could soon get some extra help with tasks like observing residents, providing companionship and stocking supplies.

The Manitoba government is partnering with Red River College on a condensed training program that could see the first group of students working as uncertified health-care aides in care homes as early as Dec. 8.

“Ensuring the appropriate care and support is available to residents of Manitoba personal care homes is a top priority as we see the strain that COVID-19 is placing on [the] personal care home workforce,” Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in a news release.

“We must do everything possible to ensure we have staff … to support the care needs of residents in our long-term care homes. This requires an immediate increase in the available workforce and this new training program addresses this goal.”

The course will be free for students who commit to work in a personal care home for three months after they finish the program. The week-long program will include five days of theory online and two days of in-person skills education, the release says.

Students selected to work in care homes will be given appropriate personal protective equipment for the setting they’ll work in, the release says. They will support members of the home’s resident care team, and work under the general supervision of a manager or nursing supervisor.

Scope of practice needs monitoring: expert

The new program is a good temporary solution to address an urgent need for more support in personal care homes, said Christine Kelly, an assistant professor in the University of Manitoba’s department of community health sciences. 

“It’s better to have even partially trained health-care aides than to bring in military or other people who don’t have any of this training,” Kelly said. 

But it will be important to balance the acute need for more staff in personal care homes with the potential risks of working in those settings right now. One of the biggest risks is the potential for uncertified health-care aides to end up doing work beyond the scope of their training once they’re in the care-home setting, she said.

“I think that there’s a risk that they would end up doing more than what they’re trained for because it’s so strange right now in personal care homes,” Kelly said. “For this to work, that scope needs to be sort of enforced or monitored quite closely.”

A spokesperson for Shared Health said the students “will be provided with appropriate training and orientation and will work under the direct supervision of a manager who is responsible for the care provided by the entire health care team.”

The uncertified health-care aide position has been used throughout rural and northern parts of the province for more than 10 years, and is now being introduced in Winnipeg at a time of serious demand, the spokesperson said.

Kelly also raised concerns, based on the information included in the province’s news release, about whether the students will be paid fairly for working in a potentially high-risk setting and whether they’ll be forced to move between different care homes, as casual employees often are.

The Shared Health spokesperson said the students will be limited to working at one site. The position they’ll work in is unionized and includes paid training and an hourly wage of $17.33, they said.

2nd new RRC program in a month

The announcement marks the second time in just over a month the college announced it would create a program to help its students fill health-care needs during the pandemic. In October, it announced it would train students and other health-care workers to do nasal swabs, in an effort to increase capacity at COVID-19 test sites across Manitoba.

“I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish to [aid] in our provincial response, and I want to commend our staff, faculty and instructors for continuing to step up and support our communities,” Fred Meier, president and CEO of Red River College, said in the release.

The new “micro-credential,” a transferrable certification showing that students have mastered a particular skill or set of skills, will initially be offered in Winnipeg, Selkirk, Steinbach, Winkler and Portage la Prairie starting Nov. 30. Opportunities to offer the course in other rural and northern Manitoba communities are also being explored, the release says.

The program is for students who are over 18 and have at least a Grade 10 education, though they don’t need to have experience in direct care, the release says. 

Students in their first or second year of a health sciences faculty or program can also apply to work as uncertified health-care aides without the need for additional education. Those students will be hired directly into the COVID-19 casual pool and assigned to a care home, the release said.

Students interested in participating need to apply to the COVID-19 casual pool and choose the location where they want to do their training. 

Students can apply for the new program online. The first intake deadline is Monday.

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