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Dr. Aroub Dangor (upper left), anesthesiologist Dr. Brenda Lougheed, and anesthesia assistant Craig Yeung perform an intubation on a simulated COVID-19 patient at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) Anesthesia Library [Submitted Photo].

USask unites: CLRC and university health science programs join forces with the SHA to combat COVID-19

Equipment, simulations, and training provided by the University of Saskatchewan Clinical Learning Resource Centre (CLRC) are providing the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) with essential resources to address the coronavirus pandemic.

The Clinical Learning Resource Centre (CLRC) is an interprofessional educational training complex entirely supported by the eight health science colleges and schools at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). Beyond the modest vestibule located on the second floor of the E-Wing lies an impressive honeycomb of sophisticated workspaces and simulated environments uniquely positioned to help health care professionals practice essential COVID-19 techniques in a safe location.

“When it was evident that we would be experiencing the pandemic in Saskatchewan, the first thing the CLRC did was reach out to all USask health science programs and ask for approval to provide the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) with supplies, equipment, space, and staff assistance,” said Mary Freeman (RN), director of clinical learning services with the USask Health Sciences.

The response Freeman received from all health science units was an overwhelming “yes” to support the SHA by all means possible.

Every consumable supply, piece of equipment, and salary dollar at the CLRC is supported by USask’s diverse health science programs, giving it the capacity to provide the provincial health authority with a significant amount of healthcare equipment and hands-on simulation training to tackle COVID-19.

As such, the Clinical Learning Resource Centre has helped facilitate personal protective equipment (PPE) training—in both CLRC and SHA spaces—for approximately 350 Saskatchewan physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other health care professionals. The centre is currently closed to all except those involved in pandemic-related training exercises.

“The CLRC team has worked extensively with the provincial Departments of Anesthesia, Emergency Medicine, and Surgery to simulate the intubation process of COVID-positive patients,” said Freeman.

This procedure is extremely high-risk for healthcare professionals.

“It is critical that they have the opportunity to simulate and practice this procedure with their teams of healthcare providers to ensure safety for themselves and their patients. The [USask] Health Sciences is more than happy to partner with the SHA by sharing our people, equipment, supplies, and space.”

For Freeman, it is essential to share burdens and responsibilities by working together during a crisis.

“It must be a team effort! The CLRC is playing its part by lightening the burden on Saskatchewan health care professionals,” she said. “When we facilitate the logistics of these learning sessions, they have fewer tasks to worry about and can focus on more critical responsibilities.” 

Strong partnerships between the CLRC, USask health science programs, and the Saskatchewan Health Authority have always been important but they can be essential to helping provide the enhanced efficiency, stress relief, and camaraderie required during a pandemic.

“COVID-19 has made everyone appreciate and recognize the vast amount of resources, potential, and abilities within our health sciences community,” Freeman said.

Ultimately, she believes that the public has the most to gain from the strong partnership between the health sciences and the SHA; however, Freeman is quick to point out that the wealth of knowledge and skills that can be shared between these two institutions is enormous and very promising. 

“It opens up a vast array of opportunities for improving many of the mandates we all believe in so strongly—quality healthcare, research, and education.”

University of Saskatchewan health science units include the College of Dentistry, the College of Kinesiology, the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, the School of Public Health, the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

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