Labour shortages affect every sector, with many areas in healthcare like Medical Device Reprocessing at the forefront of the need for trained staff.
At Island Health, (the health authority that encompasses the Vancouver Island region on the west coast of British Columbia), relies on Vancouver Island Universities’ (VIU) Medical Device Reprocessing Technician course to fill a constant shortage of MDR techs for this large region.
In 2019 this became an even bigger problem when we were notified in August 2019 that VIU could not find a qualified instructor in the Victoria area for our two largest hospitals. The next class was scheduled to begin October 2019.
My manager tried to convince me to apply. She had way more confidence in my abilities than I did.
I resisted, out of fear of the unknown.
Even though I had participated for many years in this program throughout my career, I avoided applying to the job posting for instructor because I was not a trained teacher!
In my mind I thought I couldn’t possibly do it because I was set in my ways. I was unsure if I had what it took. I wondered if I had to produce teaching materials. I didn’t know what to expect or if I had the energy to learn this new skill and be effective at this stage of my career!
I knew I’d be taking a leave from my position as Supervisor MDRD, what about my pension contributions? What about my hard-earned benefits, would those be paid?
I knew VIU was at risk of cancelling this class, and we needed staff! It was all I could think about. My manager asked me again…we discussed leave options. Hmmm…
The course was set to start the beginning of October 2019 and there were 18 qualified adults signed up and ready to go.
12 of them were scheduled to attend the program at the Victoria General (where I work) and Royal Jubilee Hospital (our sister hospital) in greater Victoria.
By September 2019 my manager shared that they still had no applicants. After a lot of soul searching and a vacation, I decided to apply and was hired to be the South Island instructor for the MDRT Training Program through Vancouver Island University.
My manager and director worked out an agreement with the university to share the cost of my benefits while I was on leave, things were looking up!
Of course, I did not know in the beginning I would be working with someone (remotely) with experience and a curriculum. Of course, we talked the same language, whew! She taught in the central region of Vancouver Island and I was to teach in the south island.
My presentation portrays how this adventure has been a great experience for me and should not be avoided by senior techs or staff in leaderships positions, even if they don’t possess a teaching degree.
Experience is key in this business.
MDR Supervisors and Leads are teachers. We have so much to offer! We are teaching in our roles everyday thanks to the ever changing technologies in surgery and reprocessing.
We are masters of pivoting in our departments. Challenging work during COVID has highlighted this as we worked with our health authorities to staff the departments and keep the OR’s afloat.
My expectations are high for my students.
They do not get a sugar-coated exposure to the life of an MDRT. I believe that my experience has shaped me as a realistic instructor, able to quell their fears while instilling in them the importance and gravity of skills they learn. We talk about it all and then some.
After 5 cohorts , a shift in teaching practices (through COVID) in the last 2.5 years and over 50 graduates, I reflect that in hindsight I had nothing to fear, and my departments had everything to gain. We have hired every one of the graduates that have stayed within the Island Health region or moved here after graduation for employment.
This journey has renewed my interest in the vital work we do. It has given me a newfound energy and perspective. Working with engaged adult learners has been a great experience! It’s been full of fun, demanding and exhausting all at the same time.
Over the last 2.5 years I’ve seen my department through a different lens. My team at Victoria General has grown in my absence and I’ve continued to work with them throughout my teaching honing our processes within the department.
Through this relationship I have gotten to know my techs better but as an instructor, not their supervisor. The techs at both hospitals have grown as mentors. Some of the first students are now mentors!
My Team Leads have become Supervisors and techs have become Team Leads to fill the gaps over my 5 teaching LOA’s. This is important in growing a department.
Meet the Speaker – Janette Miller
My husband Dave and I live In Langford which is just outside Victoria on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I grew up in Comox, BC the eldest of 6 children in a military family.
I started my career in healthcare as a weekend housekeeper at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria over 33 years ago. My youngest child was 4. After completing the Central Services Correspondence courses through Purdue University, I was hired on as a tech and trained on the job in the MDRD.
I worked as a tech for over 20 years at both Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals.
For the past 12 years, I’ve held the position of Supervisor, MDRD at Victoria General.In 2019 I took a leave of absence from my position at Island Health to work as an instructor for the Medical Device Reprocessing Technician Training course, offered by Vancouver Island University.
In my ‘spare’ time I spend as much time as I can with my large family of 3 adult children and 7 grandchildren. I am an artist, sewist and avid gardener.