SASKATOON - In response to the pervasive shortages of health-care workers throughout Saskatchewan, the provincial government wants more students to have the option to pursue health careers without leaving home.
The government said it will invest $5.5 million to help create spaces for 550 new students across 18 health-care training programs.
"This expansion significantly increases health education opportunities for Saskatchewan students, and will generate increased interest in training and working with health care in our province" said Health Minister Paul Merriman. "We have a lot to offer here. There are opportunities available at every stage, for recent graduates and for experienced health care professionals."
The expansion will include programs to train medical laboratory assistants, clinical psychologists, physical therapists, licensed practical nurses and pharmacy technicians.
The investment is intended to allow more students to attend these programs in Saskatchewan, and additional training seats for Saskatchewan students to be reserved at some highly specialized programs — such as occupational therapy and MRI technology — in other provinces.
For the first time, Saskatchewan students will also have reserved seats in speech language pathology and environmental public health programs, the government said.
"The majority of the new seats will be open to students beginning in the fall of 2023," said Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant. "This will open up exciting new health care career options for many more Saskatchewan students by giving them greater access to training for their career of choice."
Last year, the government also helped add 150 seats to Saskatchewan’s registered nursing, registered psychiatric nursing, and nurse practitioner programs.
Wyant expressed his hope that the "unprecedented" scale of these announcements will encourage health-care workers to stay in the province after they graduate.
"To our students, I say, 'plan to live, work and raise your families here at home in this great province,' " Wyant said. "We need your skills and we need your talent."
Ashley Boa is one of those students.
Boa, a mature student and single mother of two, is enrolled in the primary care paramedic program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
She says this has been the right place for her to begin this stage of her career — she has had the encouragement and financial support she needed to take on the challenge.
"As a primary care paramedic, I will have the opportunity to make a difference," she said. "The ability to apply my training and knowledge and achieve a successful outcome will be the most rewarding achievement and fulfilling experience of my life."
And, once she graduates, Boa is planning to put her hard-earned skills to use right here at home.
"As a longtime Saskatchewanian, educated here in the province, the natural progression will be to apply my training to our province," she said.
Tuesday's announcement is part of the government’s Health Human Resources Action Plan, which seeks to add more than 1,000 health professionals to the provincial system in the years ahead.