Seeing first-hand how health care is delivered in the Canadian province of Alberta was an eye-opening and rewarding experience for a group of Welsh students.
Level 3 health and social care learners from Coleg Ceredigion spent 17 days in the province learning how its rural isolated landscape impacts the provision of services.
The learners undertook tours of residential care homes and health care organisations, as well as being given access to libraries, lectures, and other study aids during the trip, which was funded by the Turing Scheme. They also spent time visiting health care professionals to explore the differences between the Welsh and Canadian public health systems.
“There are differences in approach that we couldn’t experience in the UK,” said Jennifer Glenc, Course Lead for the Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma in Health Sciences at Coleg Ceredigion.
“For instance, there are four different nursing qualifications in Alberta and a number of specific qualifications for allied health professionals. There is also a significant level of in-house training provided by Alberta Health Services. The experience of learning under that system is very different.”
The group also looked at the ways that health care was provided in extremely remote areas, where the emerging field of telemedicine has long been a part of the healthcare provision for small and isolated communities, as well as exploring the provision of services to Indigenous groups.
“Our area of Wales is rural, but it is by no means a remote area when compared to Alberta. We wouldn’t be able to study remote area health care here,” said Sara Jones, Lecturer in Health Sciences. “People in this area are reluctant to use telemedicine. When it comes to the integration and acceptance of these technologies, Alberta is way ahead of us.
Presentations of lessons learned
“The study of Indigenous healthcare revealed some interesting parallels with Wales, with similar experiences of bilingualism and an increased interest in alternative and traditional therapies.”
Since returning, the students have presented what they learned to local NHS managers in mid-Wales to better inform the working practices and service provision in locally.
“There are four different nursing qualifications in Canada and a number of specific qualifications for allied health professionals. This can add management and regulatory complexity,” said Sara.
“There is also a big emphasis on recreational therapy, social prescribing, and community health. Quite a few of the students were interested in this.”
As well as providing an inside look at medical practice in Alberta, the visit also proved to be a bonding experience for the group, whose ages ranged from 17 to mid-30s.
Boosting independence and confidence
All participants were able to build their confidence in working with people with different cultural outlooks. For younger learners, the visit was, in many cases, their first prolonged period away from home and has boosted their independence, while older learners were able to develop knowledge in relating to their younger colleagues, a much-needed social skill for workers in health settings.
“The mature students have more life experience, which they shared. For the younger students the trip was almost preparation for university. They were away from home and fending for themselves,” said Jennifer.
Coleg Ceredigion were able to take advantage of additional support from the Turing Scheme to take learners on the trip for whom the cost would have otherwise been prohibitive.
“The funding for disadvantaged students has been a major help. Some learners struggle to fund purchases such as suitcases. These are simple things that we take for granted, but they just don’t have access to,” Sara said.
For more information on the opportunites available under the Turing Scheme visit our FE/VET funding page