Next month, Camosun College and Island Health will open an outpatient training ultrasound clinic where patients will receive diagnostic testing and students will get hands-on training.
Called Campus Ultrasound, it will be the first clinic of its kind in the country when it opens Feb. 6.
College representatives made the announcement at the Interurban campus on Thursday with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Selina Robinson, minister of post-secondary education.
The clinic has two general ultrasound rooms and two echocardiogram rooms, allowing four students to be trained simultaneously with access to real patients, advanced simulation and help from experienced Island Health sonographers and radiologists.
“It’s the first time this has been done this way in Canada,” Dix said. “It’s hard to imagine why it took so long but here we are.
“I think it would be a model, in the health sciences in particular, for what we do in the years going forward.”
Students training at the clinic will administer ultrasound scans used to diagnose, treat and monitor a variety of medical conditions.
Lane Trotter, president of Camosun College, said new clinic will provide sonography students the opportunity to learn in a real clinic setting, while improving patient access to health-care services.
He said the college would also love to also have an MRI machine to expand the training of health-care workers.
Island Health expects about 5,000 general ultrasound exams and 3,000 echocardiogram exams will be done annually at the new clinic, which will be staffed by cardiac sonographers, general sonographers and clerical support.
Last year in Island Health, 135,000 ultrasounds and 45,000 echocardiograms were completed.
The Health Ministry contributed $1.2 million in startup funding to the clinic.
Robinson said the investment is important to train more people for in-demand jobs in the health-care sector.
In 2019, the province helped launch Vancouver Island’s first diagnostic medical sonography program at the college, which began with 16 students in May 2021.
The 24-month full-time diploma program, within the college’s School of Health and Human Services, covers core sonographic work and one of three specialty disciplines: general, cardiac or vascular.
The program now includes 32 diagnostic medical sonography students.
Pippa Cilliers, a first-year diagnostic medical sonography student, said she was thrilled when she was accepted into the program in 2021, when just 16 students were selected.
“That was one of the most exciting days of my life,” said Cilliers. “I felt so lucky to be one of the few to be selected.”
One year into the two-year “intense” program, Cilliers said the amount of knowledge and training she has received has been “truly astounding.”
“It is amazing to already be able to apply the knowledge and skills we’re learning in class with real patients,” said Cilliers.
In other ultrasound programs, Cilliers said, “I would still be in the book and have no first-hand clinical experience to speak of.”
“We can now go straight from the classroom to the clinic and directly apply all the knowledge and skills we gain here,” said Cilliers.
The clinic will operate collaboratively between Island Health’s medical imaging and heart health departments.