A grant from the Turing Scheme will enable learners from Coleg Ceredigion to explore how successful ideas used by the rural public health care system of Alberta can be implemented in remote areas of Wales.
Ten learners drawn from the Access to HE Diploma in Health Sciences and second-year Health and Social Care students at the Aberystwyth college will visit Calgary, Banff and Canmore in March and April 2022.
The students will work closely with the Calgary University nursing team to look at post-16 nurse training and how the Alberta healthcare system internalises staff education.
“We will be visiting Alberta Health Services. It is a public health service, but unlike the UK they train a lot of their staff in-house,” said Sara Jones, Lecturer in Health Sciences at Coleg Ceredigion. “We are also keen to visit Alberta Mental Health Network to see how they offer services over such vast areas.”
On their return, students will create a presentation comparing rural healthcare in Wales and Alberta, illustrating the best practice they have unearthed. They will present their findings to the Aberystwyth-based training and research organisation Rural Health and Care Wales.
The visit will also look at recruitment and retention of staff in remote rural areas, something that is a key issue in health provision in mid and west Wales.
“Students will be carrying out their own research and will be encouraged to visit libraries and other sources of information in addition to speaking with visiting healthcare professionals,” said Sara. “Ideally, we would like to send them on a placement to work alongside healthcare professionals in a clinical setting, but COVID concerns have meant that we have had to look for alternative learning methods.”
High levels of interest
“We had 20 applicants for the ten places. The standard of application was very high,” said Jennifer Glenc, Course Lead for the Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma in Health Sciences at Coleg Ceredigion. The selection process saw a roughly even number of applications from students of the two courses, despite the Access to HE course catering to mature students.
“Out of the ten students we are taking with us, seven of them fall under the category of disadvantaged,” said Jennifer. “The Turing Scheme has helped with things like funding to obtain passports. These would not have been affordable for some of our students.”
Healthcare among indigenous groups
The learners will also be working with indigenous groups in Canada to study the barriers they face in accessing healthcare.
“We also have the elements of indigenous cultures and how they handle their health care services,” Jennifer added. “They are different. They don’t accept the general healthcare and primary care practices available in Alberta due to mistrust and cases of abuse of their people.
“We will be looking at how they manage the needs of tribes and tribal people. It will give our students an interesting and very different perspective that they will never experience in Wales.”
The Welsh students will also be looking at the Albertan experience of telemedicine – an avenue of healthcare provision that has grown in importance during the pandemic. With huge distances to cover, Alberta has become somewhat of a pioneer in the area.
“Alberta Health service has split the province into zones with each area having a telemedicine specialist,” said Sara.
“The Universities have agreed to share their technologies, lectures and practice wards with us, not just in nursing, but also in areas such as physiotherapy, mental health services and integrated care” added Jennifer.
The power of the Turing Scheme
Both Sara and Jennifer feel that the flexibility of the Turing Scheme funding has made the visit possible.
“Without the Turing Scheme, we couldn’t do this project. It’s as simple as that,” said Jennifer. “We don’t have any other opportunities to fund a trip like this.”
“Although there are rural healthcare systems in Europe. A few years ago we considered going to Sweden, but we are a small department, the logistics were too difficult,” added Sara. “The Turing Scheme has allowed us to achieve our goal.”
See our stories page for more examples on how FE colleges can benefit from the Turing Scheme.