April 6, 2020

Calling on each other for support

As the global COVID-19 pandemic intensifies, the way we are all working is rapidly shifting. Where interaction with colleagues, partners, and community members was once encouraged, it is now necessary to practice physical distancing and connect in virtual ways. As educators, this has meant the huge task of moving learning and support services completely online. In this response to COVID-19, the incredible versatility of Canada’s colleges and institutes has been evident, and we urge you to keep up the good work and keep sharing your stories!

While we’ve seen resilient and creative methods to deliver online instruction across the country, in Canada and around the world, healthcare systems are struggling to meet the needs of their patients and communities. It’s at times like these that Canada needs its network of colleges and institutes the most.

In vital human and personnel resources, Fanshawe College, Collège la Cité, and St Clair College were all able to put third-year Respiratory Therapy students on a fast-track to graduation so they could begin working at hospitals where there were shortages of therapists. Similarly, 14 Red River College Health Information Management students stepped up to the challenge to help with vital record keeping and tracking the spread of COVID-19.

In material resources, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Industry, Scienceand Innovation thanked post-secondary institutions for their leadership and research effort to help understand, combat, and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and issued a call for support in providing medical equipment and access to 3D printers capable of producing critical supplies in times of shortage. And just last week, the minister followed up with another letter specifying additional supplies that were deeply needed.

Colleges and institutes have answered the call, donating equipment used in practical nursing and medical training, such as surgical face masks, gloves, gowns, and hospital beds; and many have put their research and innovation teams to work developing and producing new equipment! For example:

For those with resources to offer, Canada wants to hear from you. Similarly, share your research expertise with the Montreal General Hospital Foundation to help design a low-cost, easy-to-use and easy-to-build ventilator that can serve COVID-19 patients; by applying for a NSERC Alliance COVID-19 grant to accelerate the exchange of research results and expertise; or by getting your students and interns involved in research development for Mitacs COVID-19 related projects.

This is a challenging time that calls upon each one of us to do our part to support our communities and contribute to global efforts to flatten the curve.