SIAST program helps nurses learn critical care skills

Jodi Schellenberg
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The Critical Care Nursing program, which was previously offered in Regina and Saskatoon, has been revised and expanded to Prince Albert and North Battleford.

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“We revised the previous critical care program to make it accessible across the province and to enhance it,” said Joleen Klassen, SIAST Critical Care Nursing program head. “Originally the partnership was with Regina and Saskatoon and now we have expanded a partnership with North Battleford and Prince Albert and we hope to expand to the rest of the province in the fall.”

The program gives registered nurses an advanced certificate in critical care and is accessible online, giving them a chance to study and do the work as close to their home as possible.

“In a rural ICU, you don’t often have the number of supports or resources that an urban ICU might have,” Klassen said. “You may be running your own code blue or doing more with temporary pacemakers and other skills.”

She explained the program helps nurses have an educational background to have skills that are consistent with what is being taught in urban settings.

“I think if I have to sum it up in a nutshell, the really key message for this is in rural ICU, they need to stabilize the patient and if they are really critical, to get them to a (more advanced) ICU,” she said. “This helps that transition and it helps that transition and it helps provide consistent education across the province and consistent care for our patients across the province -- no matter where a patient is, they will receive that same standard of care.”

The program was developed in partnership with the health regions in the province.

“When we developed the program, we got input from critical care nurses, urban and rural, all across the province to provide input into the program and it meets national standards,” Klassen said. “When students are finished this program, they have the foundation to write the national exam. It offers consistency in our province, which adds value for our patients that no matter where you go, you have the same standards for our patients.”

Two nurses from Prince Albert and three from North Battleford graduated from the program this month.

Irving Bagongon, who has been a nurse for eight years and a critical care nurse for four years in Prince Albert, said the program was amazing.

“I described the program as ICU -- it is intense, comprehensive and very useful,” he said. “The program is very intense because it encompasses a broad range of topics from the fundamentals of nursing to the critical care. Basically it has very wide coverage.”

It was very comprehensive, with a wide range of topics and subjects from assessment to management of critical illness, he added.

He has already found it useful by doing a shift in Saskatoon, which made Bagongon realize “after taking this program I am prepared to practice in any critical care setting regardless if it is a rural intensive care or a city-based intensive care.”

Cecile Hunt, CEO of the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, also thinks the program is an important initiative.

“It provides a very strong strategy to prepare registered nurses for this specialty area,” Hunt said. “Instead of every region and every facility having to do it by themselves, it has certainly been a strong strategy in the past but this is an opportunity to have a well rounded program that prepares our nurses to provide care to our patients in an intensive care environment.”

Before this program was offered, critical care was different from health region to health region.

“Each region had their own type of program and now, because we made it accessible, because it is flexible and we are partnering with these regions, we have the opportunity to teach the same things with the same competencies to meet those national standards.”

The registered nurses who took the program are looking forward to using their new skills in the coming months.

“This program has prepared me to be a critical care nurse and meet the standards expected of a critical care nurse,” Bagongon said. “It is a really awesome program.”

 “I am excited to share my new skills and knowledge with my co-workers,” he added. “It is, at the end of the day, for the benefit of our patients and our families.”

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Saskatoon, North Battleford, Parkland

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