CHEO launches new program to help address healthcare worker shortage

As a Canada-wide shortage of healthcare workers continues, CHEO is hoping a new program will hep address part of the program.

A cohort of nursing students have received a paid opportunity for hands-on pediatric clinical experience, while also alleviating staffing pressures at Ottawa’s children’s hospital.

Izza Choudhry has a passion for nursing, and has loved the profession since she was eight years old.

“When I was two years old I had a kidney and liver transplant in California,” Choudhry says. “After the transplant, my care was brought to CHEO and I was followed here until I was 18. I just remember the amazing nurses who took care of me and I wanted to be that.”

On Thursday, Choudhry returned to the hospital as a member of the staff, a moment she calls ‘surreal’.

Choudhry is one of the 24, fourth-year nursing students who have been offered a position here as part of the hospital’s clinical extern program.

“It allows us to foster that transition from student to staff nurse so they will be mentored by our expert nurses on the units throughout the hospital,” says Tammy DeGiovanni, CHEO senior vice president, clinical services and chief nurse executive.

“You can’t help but be energized to hear their stories and really the experiences that they are going to bring for the team. People at CHEO love to teach; we’re an academic teaching organization so this is a new program that people are just really happy to be taking them under their wing.”

The funding for this program has been provided by the Ontario government, which the hospital received in October.

Alison Giourard, clinical manager, nursing practice in corporate service, says it will act as a pipeline for future healthcare staff within the organization.

“The funding that we have now is for this year and we are expecting to be able to continue offering this,” Giourard said. “It gives us hope that the demand is there and people want to come to work alongside us and learn from our teams.

“Hopefully, that means they’ll transition into some of our vacant positions as well once they graduate, so we’re really excited.”

Giourard notes there were more than 170 applicants for the four month posting, and the hope is to further expand the program, which will include other clinical positions and provide opportunities for younger students as well.

For many of the students, working at CHEO is a ‘dream job’, and for Choudhry, come April after graduation, she will apply at the hospital as a full-time registered nurse.

“I see myself in these hallways, not just as a patient and as a little girl, but as an RN as well,” says Choudhry.  “I owe them everything.”


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