Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) recently welcomed 60 clinical externs who are working alongside nurses as a set of helping hands to ensure a safe response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to create capacity and relief from staffing challenges, the Ministry of Health created the Enhanced Extern Program. RVH was one of only 40 hospitals in the province selected to participate in this unique opportunity.

Clinical externs are students in various stages of their schooling in the fields of nursing, respiratory therapy, medicine or paramedic programs. The externs work with members of the interprofessional team under supervision of registered healthcare providers. Their duties include helping patients with care needs, preparing them for procedures or tests, taking vital signs and medical charting.

Stephanie Crampton, RVH’s Interim Manager, Professional Practice & Education, oversees the program, orientation and training, with the assistance of two clinical supervisors. “These new positions are of tremendous help to our clinical teams particularly during this pandemic when needs are much higher. The feedback we have received has been really positive and nurses are telling us how grateful they are for the support.”

The extern program not only benefits patient care, but provides a rich learning and training opportunity for the students. “The experience and opportunity this role is providing is amazing,” says Brady MacDonald, currently in his second year of the RN program at Georgian College. “Being able to interact with the patients and the nurses and get hands-on experience has made me realize I have definitely chosen the right career path.”

Throughout the pandemic, RVH has continued to focus on delivering high-quality patient care. “This program is another way RVH has ensured a safe response during the pandemic,” says Darrell Sewell, vice president Facilities and Chief Human Resources Officer. “To meet staffing needs we have hired over 350 people, including nurses, respiratory therapists and personal care assistants. We also received support from healthcare workers in the Home & Community Care sector as RVH opened an additional 120 beds, including critical care beds and those in the 70-bed Regional Pandemic Response Unit. The clinical extern program, which is currently funded until March 31, 2022, is yet another way we can ensure we deliver the very best patient care and create a talent pipeline for our future health human resource needs.”

Clinical Externs Brady & Amanda
Brady MacDonald and Amanda Van de Sande, clinical externs on Respiratory Unit