$8.1 million for first of their kind health care training programs in Saskatchewan

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This article originally appeared on the Government of Saskatchewan website on June 14, 2024.

Saskatchewan students will soon have more opportunities to train at home through two new domestic health care programs. In 2024-25, the Government of Saskatchewan is investing approximately $8.1 million to establish the Occupational Therapy Program and Speech Language Pathology Training Program at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

“Our post-secondary institutions play key roles in helping address provincial labour market needs and achieving our Growth Plan goals,” Advanced Education Minister Colleen Young said. “Establishing these programs in-province will give more students the opportunity to train closer to home and make it easier to retain our grads here in Saskatchewan.”

“As we were meeting with frontline health care providers, our government heard concerns that these professions were in high demand and that we needed to do more to attract and retain students,” Health Minister Everett Hindley said. “A key pillar of our Health Human Resources Action Plan is to create training opportunities here at home for Saskatchewan students passionate about a career in health care while encouraging them to choose to live and work in the province after graduation.”

Each of the new training programs will be a two-year Masters program that will accept up to 40 students per year. The programs are targeted to begin in the Fall of 2026. Until then, students from Saskatchewan can continue to access reserved seats in Occupational Therapy and Speech Language Pathology in Alberta through the government’s interprovincial agreement programs (IPAs) which were established in 2020 to help the province meet its need for specialized health professionals.

“We appreciate the provincial government’s investment in developing innovative speech language pathology and occupational therapy programs at the University of Saskatchewan (USask),” University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff said. “These programs will expand USask’s ability to train health professionals, whose skills are in high-demand and whose contributions will improve the quality of life across Saskatchewan.”

Occupational Therapists and Speech Language Pathologists provide vital health services to communities throughout the province, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses. Under these new programs at USask, students will undertake clinical placements as early as their first year of studies, which will place more professionals into the health care sector sooner.

“The opening of this speech-language pathology program at the University of Saskatchewan heralds a new era in practice for our province,” Speech-Language & Audiology Canada Provincial Advocacy Manager and Interim Director of Speech-Language Pathology Jennifer Cameron-Turley said. “It is fitting that this announcement is happening shortly after Speech and Hearing Month, as it helps us continue to bring increased awareness to the profound impact of communication and swallowing disorders can have on people’s lives. We look forward to continuing to foster connection, and champion the transformative power of communication for the people of Saskatchewan.”

“The creation of this occupational therapy program at USask will address the long-standing provincial shortage of OTs and allow for greater access to critical occupational therapy services that serve Saskatchewan’s population needs, including primary care access, mental health support and management of chronic conditions,” Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ Saskatchewan Chapter (CAOT-SK) Regional Director Christine Fleming said.

In addition to these new programs, the government is also investing $2 million in the development of a Physician Assistant program at the University of Saskatchewan that is scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2025. Physician Assistants will help support physicians and increase access to primary care services throughout the province.

Expanding health training is a key deliverable of the government’s Health Human Resources Action Plan, which has the goal to help build a stronger, more robust health care workforce to meet the needs of Saskatchewan’s communities now and in the future.

To learn more about health care training options in Saskatchewan, visit saskatchewan.ca/hhr-train.

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