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Education & training

Alberta to create $500 million training centre

The Alberta government has announced its support for a $500 million healthcare facility at the University of Alberta that signals a new approach to integrating patient care with student learning.

The Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Centre (HSALC), a joint building project between the U of A and Capital Health, is one of the country’s largest health sector projects. The health services at HSALC are designed to provide a one-stop wellness approach to healthcare through integrated clinical practice combined with education and research.

Dr. Tom Marrie (pictured at left), the dean of the U of A’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, said that the new centre will not only put the various health sciences administrative offices and classrooms under one roof, it will facilitate a collaborative atmosphere between previously isolated disciplines to prepare them for a more team-oriented approach to healthcare delivery.

“This is more than just a building, this is a tremendous opportunity to provide care to patients in a team-oriented approach and it’s also an opportunity to do our teaching differently,” Marrie said. “We train medical students without much contact with nursing students or physiotherapy students or pharmacy students, but when they get out we expect them to work together as a team. So this building is going to allow us to start training health sciences students as a team, with a lot of inter-professional educational activity, so that when they get out they can start to deliver care as a team, and that’s where things are really going in the future.”

Health sciences students at the U of A are enrolled in a broad variety of health disciplines in six faculties –- Medicine and Dentistry; Nursing; Rehabilitation Medicine; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; Physical Education and Recreation; and Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.

The forecast for future enrolments in the health sciences faculties is estimated to grow two-fold, from 6,000 in 2005 to 12,000 by 2020. The new health workforce educated within the HSALC model will be fully prepared for the healthcare challenges of the future and for the implications of healthcare reform.

The fundamental shift to cross-training and multi-tasking in the education and training of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, rehabilitation therapists, nutritionists, and health and wellness promotion experts will also result in substantial operational cost savings.

HSALC will also help address the needs of people coming to the region from long distances to receive care. Currently, more than 25 percent of the people who use Capital Health services and occupy hospital beds come from outside the region – primarily from central and northern Alberta.

“This centre, the first of its kind in Canada, will place Alberta at the forefront of innovation of service to the public,” said U of A president Rod Fraser. “The interdisciplinary education and research initiatives that will accompany this new approach will enhance Alberta’s already nationally and internationally recognized contributions to the health field. This is a unique model that will unite health disciplines in providing health service focused on wellness and health promotion.”

The Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Centre is scheduled to open in 2008.