Improving patient care: uOttawa’s unprecedented investment in medical research and training

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Faculty of Health Sciences
Health-care
Health
Health sciences
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Faculty of Health Sciences Building.
Faculty of Health Sciences Building. Photo: Roy Grogan.
Health care in Canada is in crisis and that is why the University of Ottawa is investing close to $500 million in health, biomedical sciences, and life sciences infrastructure, creating innovative research and training environments to help revitalize health care across the country.

“The University has a critical role to play in training and shaping the next generation of leaders, who have to deal with rapid change, new technologies, and how they influence and change the world around us,” says University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont.

“Crucially, the University is graduating Francophone and Anglophone health professionals to serve communities desperately needing bilingual practitioners. These investments in the recently opened Faculty of Health Sciences Building and the soon-to-be-built Advanced Medical Research Centre (AMRC) will enable graduating students to deliver exemplary patient care through the lens of education, innovation, and multidisciplinary collaboration,” Frémont adds. 

Meeting workforce needs with highly prepared graduates

Sustaining the health-care system relies on training the next generation of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, audiologists, speech language pathologists, registered dietitians, and kinesiologists, says Lucie Thibault, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

These critical professions – almost all of which are suffering from serious staffing shortages – will receive a boost from graduates who will have learned in cutting-edge training facilities, including a nursing simulation centre and state-of-the-art teaching and training labs in the rehabilitation and nutrition sciences, all housed in the Faculty of Health Sciences building. This $130-million facility, the first phase of the investment in health-care technologies, opened on the Lees Avenue campus in September. 

“This is a great space for teaching, for learning, and for training future health-care professionals in a variety of different fields. says Thibault. The technology that we have in this building, in facilities such as the Louise McEntyre West Nursing Simulation and Peer Mentorship Centre, will allow students to acquire the skills and competencies they need when they get into the job market.”

The Centre was created thanks to a generous gift from the family of Louise McEntyre West, a graduate of the School of Nursing who died of ALS in 2015. 

Image of three medical students in a lab

“This is a great space for teaching, for learning, and for training future health-care professionals in a variety of different fields.”

Lucie Thibault

— Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences

The science of simulation

The Simulation Centre consists of eight skills labs, containing a total of 64 beds. In the labs, students learn everything from how to take blood pressure and monitor other vital signs, to complex skills such as intubation, chest compressions, and inserting catheters and intravenous lines.

At every bedside, built-in head walls provide simulated oxygen, medical air, and suction equipment. Most hospital beds are also equipped with a high-fidelity manikin, so that allow students can practise everything from delivering a baby to running an emergency resuscitation code.

“It looks real, it looks like what you would see in a hospital setting,” explains Natalie St-Jacques-Farha, an RN and manager of the Centre for Innovative Education in Simulation and Nursing (CIESN).

Training students with equipment they will see in hospital settings makes them better practitioners, she notes. 

Three students in an emergency lab

“It looks real, it looks like what you would see in a hospital setting.”

Natalie St-Jacques-Farha

— RN and manager of the Centre for Innovative Education in Simulation and Nursing (CIESN)

Because COVID exacerbated an exodus of experienced nurses from the health-care system, many new nurses can no longer rely on support from experienced mentors, yet they must deal with increasingly complex cases, says Jane Tyerman, an associate professor at the School of Nursing who is the faculty lead for simulation. 

That reality makes it even more important to use simulations “to best prepare our students for entry into the current clinical environment,” she adds.

Simulation provides a safe, controlled learning environment where students can make mistakes and learn from them, she explains. The new building and the Centre, along with Tyerman’s expertise and research into the effectiveness of simulation, have “really put the University of Ottawa on the map as a leader in the field,” she says.

The location of the labs and the Simulation Centre will also increase interprofessional collaboration, says St-Jacques-Farha: it will allow instructors to run simulations that feature several members of a health-care team, namely nursing, rehabilitation, and nutrition students, working together.

Researchers and practitioners collaborating for better patient care

Proximity is also a critical component of the new Advanced Medical Research Centre (AMRC), which is scheduled to break ground in April 2024.

The building, which will be located next to the Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus and uOttawa’s Faculty of Medicine, will contain laboratory diagnostics and a biomanufacturing facility. 

Those facilities will enable both research and discovery of new vaccines and therapeutics, as well as delivery of bench-to-bedside personalized treatment – “smart” medicine.

The University’s investment in both facilities and innovative ideas should make the AMRC a draw for anyone interested in being part of transforming the health-care system, Frémont adds.

“We have a tremendous critical mass of research, training, and health-care professionals in the region,” he points out, as well as unique proximity to the federal government, health regulators and a strong biomedical industry. 

The University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Faculty of Medicine are integral partners in research and training in the regional health ecosystem. When the AMRC opens its doors in 2026, it will represent a major leap forward in technology, training and patient care. 

Find out more about the AMRC and its remarkable research potential.