KENTVILLE, NS - Challenged to find real-world solutions to problems within the Nova Scotia health care system, Kingstec students delivered.
250 students from eight Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) campuses took part in Challenge Nova Scotia on Nov. 24. Teams from Kingstec took first and third place. The second place team was from the IT Campus. The first-place team wins $2,000, second place wins $1,500 and third place wins $1,000.
Premier Stephen McNeil and NSCC president Don Bureaux joined participants via a pre-recorded message to deliver this year’s question:
“The government is making strides to recruit more physicians to our province, but there is more work to be done. What could we do differently to address challenges such as attracting more family doctors to Nova Scotia, alleviating emergency room pressures, or creating greater continuing care access?”
Students were tasked with creating a product, service or strategy that will help offer solutions for this important sector.
Working in teams of three to five members, participants were given 12 hours to complete the challenge, create a 90-second video outlining the proposed solution and post it to YouTube. The videos went before a panel of judges and the top three were shown to the Premier.
Nurse practitioner clinics, ER’s
Along with teammates Torri Dexter, Daniel Hoffmann and Becky Hill, Addictions Community Outreach Program student Miranda Bouchard won first place. She said time management was one of the biggest challenges aside from coming up with a solution.
Originally from Tracadie, Bouchard said there’s a long waiting list of people from her home community without access to family doctors.
“When we started doing research for our video, we kind of found out to what extent the seriousness was, and it’s all throughout Nova Scotia, not just in the rural communities,” Bouchard said.
Her team wanted to come up with a suggested solution that is practical and draws on existing resources. They learned through research that nurse practitioners aren’t being used to their full capabilities and a lot of people are unaware of what these professionals do.
Her team focused on having nurse-practitioner-led walk-in clinics and emergency rooms to help address the doctor shortage.
Bouchard said she isn’t sure how she’ll spend her share of the winnings, $500. She’ll probably treat herself to “something nice” and put the rest toward education expenses.
“You’ve got to give yourself a little bit of a reward,” she said.
Use nurse practitioners, modernize 8-1-1
Along with teammates Sam Swinamer, Ashley Gamble, Griffin Oomen-White and Colin Arenburg, first-year Business Administration student Ken Cleary won third place.
He said they got their brainstorming done early and started working on their main points but when it came time to produce the video, they realized they didn’t have as much time as they thought.
Growing up in Sackville, Cleary said he became familiar with long wait times in emergency rooms. He now lives with an emergency room nurse, so he has become even more familiar with the challenges at hand.
Their research showed that these challenges are affecting emergency rooms across the province and a high percentage of ER visits aren’t actually emergencies.
They focused in on modernizing the province’s 8-1-1 system using Facebook and the under-utilization of nurse practitioners, who are capable of making diagnoses and writing prescriptions, to help alleviate emergency room pressures.
“The question was asking us how to bring doctors in but, when we were looking at it, we don’t need to bring doctors in. We need to utilize the people that we have here and that’s something that we haven’t been doing,” Cleary said.
Cleary said he plans to use his share of the prize money, $200, to help buy gas to get back and forth to school.
Both students agreed that condensing their research and proposed solution into a 90-second video was difficult. They also agreed that it was great to receive an email from the Premier thanking them.
“It’s great to see our efforts valued and appreciated,” Bouchard said.
School of Business faculty member Daniel MacKinnon said they are incredibly proud of the tremendous effort on the part of the students. It was “nothing short of spectacular.” He said skills learned through Challenge NS are highly transferable.
MacKinnon said there was no flexibility on the 90-second limit for videos, which also had to include APA citations. All videos were vetted for compliance with copyright laws.
“The fact that they both passed through the copyright office without issue is a full credit to our students as well,” he said.
School of Business Academic Chair Jadine Sherman said the event wouldn’t have happened without faculty and staff driving it and supporting student efforts.
There were 26 Kingstec students from the schools of Business and Health and Human Services involved this year, making up six teams.
Sherman believes there is a “huge opportunity” for more students from more schools and programs within the college to participate in the future. She said Challenge NS helps students realize the potential that they have to solve our existing problems.
“To see that all of their efforts can go all the way to the top and be heard and make a difference in Nova Scotia, I think that’s what’s going to light the fire under our students,” Sherman said.