Thousands of Quebecers begin training to become CHSLD orderlies

Trainees will be paid $21 hourly while they complete the course, which will be offered in both the English and French school systems. Once hired, the orderlies will earn $26 hourly, which works out to an annual income of $49,000.

Some of the program's teachers fear fast-track program will affect quality of training

Class gets underway today for thousands of future orderlies, or préposés aux bénéficiaires, set to work in the province's long-term care facilities. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

On Monday morning across Quebec, aspiring orderlies lined up, two metres apart, to begin the province's new fast-track training program. 

Class gets underway today for thousands of future patient attendants, or préposés aux bénéficiaires, set to work in the province's long-term care facilities.

Maryline Simard only found out her application had been accepted last Wednesday.

"It's stressful, but it's good stress — anxiety and joy at the same time," she told Radio-Canada on Sunday. 

Most of Quebec's COVID-19 cases and deaths have occurred in the homes, known as CHSLDs, and private seniors' homes (RPAs), where residents have a higher level of autonomy.

With the pandemic putting further strained on an already understaffed system, the government invited Quebecers to apply for the new three-month paid training program.

Premier François Legault said he aims to have 10,000 new orderlies working in long-term care homes by September.

The Health Ministry says 9,800 trainees are expected to begin training this week, with the goal of filling 10,000 spots after all the files are processed. By June 15, the ministry had received more than 85,000 applications.

Èva Benoit, 21, was one of the people who answered the government's call. She started training Monday morning at École des métiers des Faubourgs-de-Montréal.

Benoit says working in a CHSLD will be a way to help people who are the most vulnerable. She was inspired by her father, who worked with seniors for several years. 

"He told me how to treat people when they feel lost and how to give a helping hand and listen," Benoit said. "Very human experiences make you also vulnerable, [and] not think only of yourself, but their perspective as well."

Twenty-one-year-old Èva Benoit started training to become a patient attendant Monday morning at École des métiers des Faubourgs-de-Montréal. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Benoit wasn't planning on becoming a patient attendant, but when she saw the dire situation in the province's long-term care homes on the news, she decided she had nothing to lose. 

"We just want to help others through their tough situations. That's what's the aim," Benoit said. 

She said the salary was a factor in her decision (upon completion of the training, orderlies will make an annual salary of $49,000), but she's hoping the experience will be even more valuable. 

Orderly trainees line up in Quebec City for their first day of in-class training to work in the province's long-term care facilities, hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Hadi Hassin/Radio-Canada)

Accelerated program, accelerated preparation

Some of the program's teachers expressed concern the hastily prepared program will affect the quality of the training. 

Those who will be teaching the condensed training program had just under three weeks to prepare for the start of courses, and in Montreal, training centres only received the curriculum on Thursday. 

"We would like to be prepared and know where we are going, but we are missing information," said Dominique Desfossés, a nurse who teaches in Lanaudière. 

The new, paid program was developed based on existing patient attendant training, and those who complete it will obtain a professional study certificate that will allow them to work in CHSLDs, but not hospitals.

With files from Simon Nakonechny and Radio-Canada

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