Educational institutions are seeing an increase in applications for health-care positions as the industry faces increased growing demands from an aging baby-boomer population.
Never has it been more evident than in the diagnostic imaging cluster programs at Cambrian College. Hundreds of applicants are competing for a small number of available seats.
The cluster consists of medical radiation technology (MRT), diagnostic ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and medical laboratory technology.
Diagnostic ultrasonography is the newest of the four programs; the MRI program is in its second year. Both programs have had no problems filling seats. The three-year ultrasonography program is unique in that people can apply right from high school. Previously, it was only available via the X-ray technology program.
“We found a large percentage of people that applied to X-ray had an end goal of being in ultrasound,” said Daniel Draper, Cambrian’s dean of health sciences and emergency services. “When we talked to our stakeholders in the industry, they said the X-ray technologists that went over to work in ultrasound invariably stayed there.”
Consequently, it was decided that it would be a good idea to offer a direct-entry ultrasound program. It opened with 35 available seats, which filled quickly.
Those interested in the new one-year graduate certificate MRI program must have an X-ray technology diploma and be working or registered as a technologist in order to apply, said Draper. The MRI program has 14 seats because it is tied to the number of machines available for students to perform a four-month placement.
The MRT program, or X-ray technology, is for those interested in becoming an X-ray technologist.
This three-year program is the most competitive one for would-be students, with approximately 400 people applying for 35 available seats, said Draper. With an intake once a year, the majority of students in this program are the cream of the crop.
The three-year medical laboratory technology program is open to high school graduates. Much like the MRT program, the student demand is growing, with approximately 200 to 250 applicants vying for 50 seats.
Draper said they get a range of people enrolling in the programs, from mature students and those returning with degrees to students straight out of high school. Although the programs generally have more females than males, this ratio is changing.
The graduation rates are high, as are the employment rates. The jobs are well-paying, with annual salaries ranging from $50,000 to $70,000.
Draper said it is a growth industry because there are not enough young people to replace the retiring boomers, creating a shortage. As well, the increase of 60- and 70-year-olds accessing health care has generated a higher demand for allied health-care professionals.
This demand has led to the need to provide programs to fill the shortages.
“Part of the challenge is that we are trying to educate people for an industry that is in motion and always has been in motion,” Draper said. “There is a substantial piece of research that says the face of nursing is going to change from the clinical environment to the community environment, because the care is being delivered there.”
In an effort to meet the community health-care challenges, which is a more patient-centred model, interprofessional education is being incorporated into the programs.
One example involves combining practical and registered nurses with personal support workers, which is often the case in nursing homes. By putting different professions together, the students learn what their role is in relation to the other care providers within a particular setting.
“It is an excellent learning opportunity because when they start working in that field, they will understand what their role is in caring for the resident,” Draper said.
“You’ll see a substantial swing when the boomers start being cared for because, historically, they’ve been a vocal group and they will direct what they want.”