Thompson Rivers University

Putting care in career

June 20, 2019

Health care assistants doing their practicum at Kamloops Seniors Village

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 edition of Bridges Magazine: The Sustainability Issue. Bridges is the official publication of TRU alumni and friends, and can be read online in its entirety at

Twenty seven weeks can change lives. That’s the time it takes to complete the health-care assistant program and begin working on the frontlines with some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

“The need for caregivers is rising,” said Dr. Tracy Christianson, assistant professor and chair, TRU Health Care and Practical Nurse programs.

“In Williams Lake, agencies need about 100 health-care assistants. That’s pretty significant for a smaller community,” she said, noting a new residential care facility just opened there.

TRU has health-care assistant programs in Williams Lake, Kamloops and at regional centres in the Interior. Providing training close to students’ homes where there are available jobs is important to meet the needs of students and communities, she said.

“And you’re done in 27 weeks. You’ve got good skills, you’re in demand, you’re job ready, you’ll start off making a decent wage. And making a huge difference in people’s lives,” she said.

“We have an aging population—the silver tsunami, as it’s been described. Not only do we have an aging population with an increasing need for care and support, but we have an aging health-care workforce. So, the demand is high as health care professionals retire. It’s kind of a domino effect with what’s happening with demographic changes.”

The on-campus program in Williams Lake takes 18 students, while another 12 seats are available in regional centres (100 Mile House, Ashcroft/Cache Creek, Barriere, Clearwater and Lytton/Lillooet) through a blended option. Regional students can take most classes in their home communities—an option that had special ministry funding.

“It’s working really well. Students seem to like it and we continue to improve it.”

Christianson started her own nursing career as a health-care assistant, so she understands what the job involves.

“Personal care is a big part of the job, but equally important is the interaction and socialization that you give to this population. It not only enriches the client, it enriches the health-care assistants’ lives as well. It’s amazing the relationships that you build,” she said.

“Health-care assistants are the eyes and ears and hearts of the health-care system. They are with the clients more than other health-care providers.”

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