Université de Montréal's Laval simulation centre works to unclog emergency rooms

Université de Montréal's Laval simulation centre has been set up at lightning speed to receive hundreds of patients diverted from the emergency department of the Cité de la Santé in Laval as of Monday.

300 appointment slots available per week

Nursing students stand near a mannequin at the Université de Montréal's Laval campus simulation centre.
Nursing students Annabelle Lemay and Louis David stand near a mannequin at the Université de Montréal's Laval campus simulation centre. (Davide Gentile/Radio-Canada)

Université de Montréal will be sharing its state-of-the-art simulation centre in Laval with the public to help cut down on wait times in emergency rooms.

As of Monday, a few hundred patients will stop by the campus each week to be treated by specialized nurse practitioners (SNP) and nurse clinicians under the watchful eye of nursing students.

The Laval SNP clinic is the fourth to open its doors since Health Minister Christian Dubé announced the creation of an emergency crisis unit in early November. 

A first clinic opened its doors two weeks ago in the east end of Montreal with 300 time slots per week. Two other clinics in south-central Montreal will have around 100 weekly time slots.

To start, the Laval site will be open for appointments on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. There are 300 time slots per week planned.

Two SNPs with a nurse clinician will take care of patients referred either by the Cité de la Santé hospital emergency department, a professional from the primary care access point (GAP), or by home-care teams, said Élaine Cardinal, director of nursing care at the CISSS de Laval.

The emergency in Laval receives 800 to 900 patients whose health condition is either slightly urgent or not urgent at all. But they stay in the waiting room for six to seven hours.

Demand is also high at the first line access counter (GAP) to obtain an appointment with a caregiver.

Increasing access to care

Stéphanie Guindon will be one of the volunteer SNPs in the first months.

Stéphanie Guindon
Stéphanie Guindon leads advanced practice and skills development at the CISSS de Laval. (Radio-Canada)

"The main objective is to see patients outside of the emergency room and to increase access to care," she says.

As the head of advanced practice and skills development at the CISSS de Laval, Guindon says she wants to "push the role of SNPs and clinicians to the maximum of their scope of practice."

For Sylvie Dubois, dean of the faculty of nursing sciences at Université de Montréal, the initiative is a "university clinic-school where SNPs and nurse clinicians will learn to work in tandem."

Sylvie Dubois
Sylvie Dubois, dean of the faculty of nursing at Université de Montréal. (Radio-Canada)

Attracting more nurses

Nursing student Annabelle Lemay said she was thrilled with the opening of this clinic-school.

"It's a plus that it's directly on our campus, where we can go to our classes and then go to an internship in the evening," she said.

Dubé and Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry see it as an additional opportunity to attract more young people to a profession facing a shortage.

"If you provide a training environment that is exciting like here, people are sure to come," Dubé said.

Dubé drew parallels between hospitals like the CHUM, the McGill University Health Centre and CHU Sainte-Justine, where he says it is easy to attract nurses to work "because the environment is extraordinary."

In Quebec, there are currently around 1,100 SNPs out of 76,000 nurses in the workforce.

In 2017, the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard launched a program to train 2,000 SNPs by 2025.

According to data from the Ministries of Health and Higher Education, the university network has admitted more than 1,200 students to the SNP program over the past five years and the Quebec government has paid them nearly $60 million in scholarships.

Based on reporting by Radio-Canada's Daniel Boily and Davide Gentile