Show promotes health care studies

Career showcase targets rural workforce shortages

A multidisciplinary group of health-care students from post-secondary institutions travelled to northern and rural communities around B.C. to showcase rural career opportunities to high school students as part of the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow including to Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO) on May 19.

The Roadshow group includes students from the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC), the University of B.C. (UBC), the B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT), Thompson Rivers University (TRU) and the University of Alberta (U of A).

Dr. Sean Maurice, a senior lab instructor at UNBC with the Northern Medical Program (that operates the Roadshow), helped to create the Roadshow in 2010 and has been part of this special educational tour ever since.

“It started as a small, grassroots initiative that was just students in the Prince George training program, and we’ve expanded to invite health care professional students from across the province, and this year, we are doing three trips,” he explains.

The Roadshow’s UNBC faculty lead says every trip involves a group of 12 different students, for a total of 36 Roadshow educators representing 14 individual health care professions from 11 post-secondary institutions. Visiting PSO in 100 Mile House was the final trip for this year.

“During our visits to the schools, we are speaking to students about careers in health care and giving them a first-hand look at different health-related equipment and technology,” he explains. “They have a chance to interact with model patients and learn everything from how to read an X-ray to how to take blood pressure and intubate.”

The younger students at the secondary schools not only get a chance to hear the career perspective of a health care student still in training, but also a wide diversity of health care professions from midwifery and medicine to lab techs and physiotherapy, he explains.

The Roadshow travels around rural B.C. targeting mostly Grade 10 students possibly interested in a career in these fields, and it was created to address rural health care workforce shortages, he says, adding the program currently has a backlog of requests.

“We see between 500 and 1,000 students in a week when we do the tour … we have been increasing the number of Roadshows we can provide over the last few years, and we are working on getting an online presence so we can help provide some of those answers and tools to students when we’re not in town, and to those in the other grades.”

Maurice says because rural students face greater barriers when applying to the post-secondary health care programs, whether PSO students go to Vancouver Island or the Lower Mainland or Northern B.C. for their training, they are more likely to return to 100 Mile House.

“We know that it is worth investing in these kids, and we need to encourage them to go to these programs if we want to address rural workforce recruitment and retention.”

U of A medical laboratory scientist Eric Querengesser was one of the Roadshow trainers. Interested students and even a few PSO teachers gathered around in groups to hear what he had to say about his lab tech work, before moving on to the next of several learning stations.

After his explanations, he answered queries, including one student who asked how they cut the tiny sections needed for study on the lab slide.

“We have this really cool machine called a Microtome,” Querengesser explains. “It’s a hand-cranked wheel that advances a very sharp blade two-to-four microns at a time.”

He says for microscopy, this rotary tool is used to cut these extremely thin slices of material – about one cell thick at a time – to prepare samples for observation under a microscope, with the assistance of thin layers of wax.

“Then you basically pick it up, very gently, and display it on warm water. The water allows the wax to expand and remove any impurities and wrinkles and [so on]. It is so thin, if you have a little wrinkle on the tissue, it is very noticeable underneath the microscope.”

There were four different types of sections on the slides the lab tech shows to these students, which he explains is “to get an appreciation of what they look like” because it is quite difficult to prepare an accurate and clean slide.

The program is funded through the Northern Medical Programs Trust and the Rural Education Action Plan.

More information is online at

100 Mile House Free Press