Quebec to set up two fast-track health-care training programs to combat labour shortage

Quebec is launching an intensive recruitment effort for nursing assistants and clinical services administrative officers in hopes of repeating the successes achieved in the recruitment of orderlies.

Health Minister Christian Dubé and Education Minister Jean-François Roberge announced Wednesday the creation of scholarships and the implementation of accelerated training programs aimed at attracting 3,000 administrative officers and 2,000 nursing assistants.

"To make the changes in health -- a change in culture, all we need to do -- one of the biggest rocks, one of the biggest important elements, is the workforce," Dubé said.

"With manpower, there's going to be more people, to have a work environment that's better for everyone who's there."

SCHOLARSHIPS UP TO $20,000

The scholarships are significant as those enrolling in the administrative officer training will receive a $4,000 scholarship, while applicants for the nursing assistant training will receive a $20,000 scholarship.

In the first case, the registered students will have to commit to work for at least one year while the second will have to commit to work for two years. The total amount of the bursaries represents an investment of $14 million for administrative officers and $48 million for nursing assistants.

Dubé said the $20,000 bursaries will be paid out in three instalments: at the beginning of training, mid-way through, and upon graduation.

The mission of the administrative officers in support of the clinical sectors will be to assume the administrative tasks of nurses, tasks that take up too much of their time, according to Minister Dubé.

This will free them up to spend more time on patient care. The administrative agent training, which usually represents 400 hours, will be compressed into 240 hours, or about two months, so Quebec plans to gradually integrate them into the health network by next summer.

Quebec's plan calls for the hiring of some 300 agents for emergencies, 600 for CHSLDs and home support, 800 for the mental health and youth sectors, and 1,300 in other hospital missions, depending on needs.

ACCELERATED TRAINING OF NURSING ASSISTANCE TO BEGIN IN 2022

On the nursing assistant side, accelerated training will begin next January. The 1,800-hour training requirement is unchanged, but rather than being obtained in 22 months, the Diploma of Professional Studies will be completed in 14 months and Quebec expects to have this cohort in place in the network by March 2023.

"The number of months will be reduced, but the number of hours will be concentrated," said Roberge. "They won't have fewer hours of training in the case of nursing assistants, but we're concentrating in fewer weeks, in fewer months."

The accelerated training programs and the related bursaries will be offered in all regions of Quebec.

NEGATIVE UNION REACTION

The Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ) reacted rather negatively to the announcement. The union, which represents the majority of nursing assistants, criticized Minister Dubé for acting "alone and in silo."

In a press release issued following the announcement, the FIQ said it believes that by not consulting the unions, the minister "deprived himself of an essential vision of the reality in the field and of proposals to definitively resolve the exodus and exhaustion of the health workforce ... In so doing, he avoided addressing the crucial issue of poor working conditions and the lack of valorization and recognition of the nursing assistant profession in the care teams."

Nathalie Lévesque, the interim president of the CNU, recognizes that "we cannot be against the government's desire to train 2,000 nursing assistants to come and lend a hand in the failing network," but she adds that the problem will remain "if we are not able to offer them the opportunity to fully exercise their field of practice."

The reaction from teachers was not much more enthusiastic. The Fédération des syndicats de l'enseignement (FSE-CSQ) is concerned about the acceleration of the training of nursing assistants, stating that "the current training is already too busy."

The union fears that reducing the time required for the same training by 40 per cent will "greatly increase the pressure on students, whose daily learning capacity for such complex content has its limits." It also argues that the increase in daily practicum hours "also increases the risk of errors."

The FSE-CSQ pointed out that the failure rate is already very high in the program when it is extended to its full duration It also deplored the fact that Quebec has acted without first discussing the issue with teachers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 1, 2021. For CTV News' full report, watch the video above.

Newsletters

Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners