Guest blog by Dr. Teresa Paslawski, associate dean, School of Rehabilitation Science
The commitment to an additional 550 student seats across 18 healthcare training programs made by the Saskatchewan government on January 31 is a significant investment in the future of healthcare for the province. The announcement included funding for an additional 15 seats in the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program in the School of Rehabilitation Science (SRS) in the USask College of Medicine, taking the cohort from 40 to 55 students beginning with this fall’s incoming class.
Congratulations and thanks are owed to many people who were involved in this major step in the growth of rehabilitation training in our province—most notably the director of the MPT program, Dr. Cathy Arnold. Her leadership, attention to detail, and enthusiasm for this undertaking were instrumental in its success. Congratulations and thanks are also owed to the members of the school, college and central administration of the university for supporting the development and planning to allow this to happen. The timeline to welcome a 40 per cent increase in new students in the fall means there is much to be done before the start of the new academic year, but the positive impact on our province is well-worth the effort. We will work with our stakeholders to ensure that we maintain the same high MPT educational program standards.
The announcement also referenced expanding opportunities for Saskatchewan students in out-of-province programs, including speech language pathology (SLP) and occupational therapy (OT). SLP and OT services continue to be among the highest health and human resource needs in Saskatchewan, not just in healthcare, but also in education, justice and other areas. These long-standing workforce deficits in our province need to be addressed for the health and well-being of Saskatchewan.
Providing training opportunities for Saskatchewan students out of province is a welcome step in addressing these gaps in service. But there are many compelling reasons to develop our own training programs here in our province for these disciplines, including the enhanced value to all disciplines that occurs with training together to strengthen collaborative practice for more effective care. Data from the Canadian Institute of Health Information also tells us that students are most likely to seek employment where they have done their training. Ultimately, we will need Saskatchewan-based training for SLP and OT students to more effectively increase recruitment and retention of these clinicians in our province.
I am excited to be able to share with you that the University of Saskatchewan is actively working with the provincial government to refine proposals for Saskatchewan-based SLP and OT programs to expand rehabilitation programming here.
I want to thank the Government of Saskatchewan for responding to the needs of the province and initiating these steps that will help strengthen and stabilize Saskatchewan’s healthcare workforce. I look forward to working with the government and university on these exciting endeavours to address critical healthcare shortages in our province and to strengthen the important investments already made by the government in rehabilitation.