By Sandy Meadow, Program Coordinator, Health Sciences


Health professionals don't have a lot of leisure time these days. Neighbours turn out each night to make some noise as a show of appreciation for the stunning efforts of health care workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. Practitioners are putting in long shifts under unusually stressful conditions. When their shift ends, many won't have the energy to take on additional studies. 

For others, though, and for those in career transition, or for students still preparing to enter the workforce, professional development courses bolster a resume and also strengthen the resilience and capacity of our health care system.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic stretched every health care organization on the globe, health service planners were looking to "task-shifting" to make the best use of staff resources. This strategy aims to "move the care of some patient groups from health workers with higher levels of training to health workers with lower levels of training," which can be effective, especially when implemented with care.

During the current pandemic, World Health Organization guidelines suggest task-shifting and task-sharing as part of the staffing response when clusters of cases appear in a region. In Canada, redeployment and task reassignment of health workers is part of the response plan, including in British Columbia and Alberta.

Broad professional development equips health workers to take on new roles during a crisis, or when local conditions warrant. For example, nurses and allied health professionals who gain certification in advanced wound care could:

  • take on a permanent role as a wound champion
  • step into wound care when other specialists are redeployed
  • cover when wound care colleagues are ill or in isolation
  • support patients caring for their wounds at home, or via telehealth services.

Professional development opportunities, especially those that are available to be taken online, may be well-timed for students now studying to be health care workers. While many institutions are working towards moving their programs online, it may be some time yet before all courses will be available. However, students who aren’t able to participate in practicums or other face-to-face training may use this interim time to add other training to their roster. They may go on to graduate and enter the workforce with broader skills than they otherwise would because of the opportunity to add professional development courses before professional registration.

Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria specializes in creating professional development courses for distance learning, specifically designed to help participants thrive in the online environment. When the time is right, consider these online opportunities to grow your capacity to take on new roles:

  • Wound Management for Health Professionals: a program for nurses, allied health professionals, physicians and anyone working with patients or technologies in acute and chronic wound care; promoting evidence-based principles and practice aligned with the newest clinical guidelines.
  • Canadian Fall Prevention Curriculum: for nurses, allied health professionals, recreation therapists, kinesiologists, administrators and others working with older adults, enabling them to design and implement fall-prevention programs to reduce the staggering human and economic cost of fall-related injury.
  • Palliative Care Pharmacy: a new and immediately successful course launched in 2019, equipping pharmacists with the specialist knowledge and skills to provide palliative care in the community as well as in hospitals or hospices, and support patients, families, and other members of the interprofessional team.


Sandy Meadow studied task-shifting as part of her post-graduate certificate in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is a program coordinator in Health Sciences and Public Relations Programs at Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria.

  • Posted May 4, 2020