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Nursing is a Community Partnership in Cornwall

2022-09-15

Co-written by St. Lawrence College and Cornwall Community Hospital Communications Staff

Every year, approximately 350 health sciences students, including Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN), Practical Nurse (PN), and Personal Support Worker (PSW), from St. Lawrence College’s (SLC) Cornwall campus complete their clinical placements at the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH).

The placements are a key component of their education, allowing them to work directly in patient care, so that when they graduate, they are ready to hit the ground running as highly trained and skilled members of the hospital’s health care teams.

For fourth-year BScN student, Maya Ouellette, who comes from the nearby town of Bainsville, choosing to study at SLC and do her placement at CCH means she can learn, live, and work in her community, as she plans to remain in the Cornwall area after graduation and work at the hospital.

“By studying at SLC, I was able to benefit from doing a placement right away in the first year of first semester to gain more hands-on skills to become a registered nurse. There is also pride in being able to serve your community,” Maya said.

Maya’s studies also included an elective course unique to SLC in critical care, allowing her to learn more advanced nursing skills such as arterial lines, ventilators, cardiac monitoring, and external ventricular drain monitoring. “I really enjoyed the simulation labs the program offers to get the students ready for real life scenarios in a critical setting.”

Having undergone a major redevelopment project in 2014, CCH is now one of the largest and most advanced hospitals in Eastern Ontario, meaning SLC students at CCH are exposed to the sorts of departments, technologies and innovative models of care perhaps more often associated with “big city hospitals,” but in the comfort and familiarity of a small town.

CCH services a catchment area of over 100,000 people, which includes not only the City of Cornwall, but also the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry, and the Mohawk community of Akwesasne.

According to Maya, SLC students are exposed to “everything and anything” while on placement at CCH, including the hospital’s medicine, emergency, surgery, operating room, stroke and rehab, critical care, labour and delivery, and inpatient mental health units.

Maya credits the hospital’s clinical instructors for guiding students and providing exceptional hands-on training in things like tracheostomies, assisting with the insertion of chest tubes, surgical wound drains, catheters, and various other skills.

“The instructors you have for placement are very hands on and you are able to learn from their vast knowledge and skills. All my instructors have played a major role in developing my nursing skill set,” she said.

“My top experiences working at CCH have all been responding to traumas, such as strokes, heart attacks and patients whose vital signs go absent. An amazing experience as a student was shadowing the anesthesiologist in the operating room to see how to mix medications, intubate, and monitor a patient's airway. We also were able to watch an external pacemaker be put in while in the emergency department. All these skills are so fast paced and specialized which I find is the most exciting.”

Maya will be staying on at CCH, where she hopes to consolidate in the emergency department where she currently works as an emergency room assistant and clerk for the last two years, and she’s not the only one to pursue a career opportunity at CCH post-graduation: between 2020 and 2021, the hospital hired over 80 health care graduates from SLC.

But according to Maya, “one of the greatest benefits of studying at SLC, doing my placement at CCH, and staying here is that you form bonds and friendships with the same people over the years. It really feels like a family here.” 

Now more than ever, there is a need for more students like Maya who are eager to study in health care and work in her community as hospitals struggle with staffing challenges. The partnership between SLC and CCH is working to strengthen health care delivery in Cornwall and provide opportunities to hopeful health care professionals looking to make a difference in their communities.

 For more information on St. Lawrence College and educational opportunities, visit https://www.stlawrencecollege.ca/.