THUNDER BAY — A new program launching at Confederation College will address a shortage of pharmacy technicians across Northwestern Ontario.
College officials and local pharmacies hope the opportunity to enrol in a two-year diploma program close to home will persuade more students to pursue a career in the Northwest.
The inaugural class of up to 30 students will begin studies in September 2024.
Shane Strickland, dean of the school of health, Negahneewin and community services, said the college is acting in response to an identified and pressing need.
"Confederation is responding to a community need, both in our local hospitals — St. Joseph's Care Group and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre — as well as a number of different community organizations that have asked us to create a pharmacy tech program."
He said there's a current shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the Northwest.
"The reason, of course, is that we're not getting a lot of attraction from southern Ontario for out-of-catchment students and graduates to come up here. We want to address that by having our own graduates here."
Currently, the nearest Ontario college that offers the program is in Sault Ste. Marie.
According to Strickland, the shortage of pharmacy technicians in this region is growing.
"There have been changes in legislation that require pharmacy techs to do particular activities in a variety of different settings. As a result, we need to have those kinds of practitioners so that pharmacists can do their jobs, and their [own] expanding scope of practice as well."
In preparation for the program, about $1 million is expected to be spent on state-of-the-art simulation labs equipped with health industry standard equipment.
An announcement from the college stated that the program will place a strong emphasis on community, long-term care, and hospital-based experiential learning.
Starting with the first semester, students will get an opportunity to explore various roles through lab learning, access cutting-edge facilities and participate in real-world placement settings.
Graduates will be eligible for registration with the Ontario College of Pharmacists, and will also have the option of practising in a variety of health-care settings to further enhance their career prospects.
Applications may be submitted through the Ontario colleges website.