TRU supports COVID-19 fight with donations and dozens of early graduations for medical students | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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TRU supports COVID-19 fight with donations and dozens of early graduations for medical students

The Old Main building at Thomspon Rivers University now shines pink to honour the front line health care workers.
Image Credit: TWITTER / Thompson Rivers University
April 10, 2020 - 5:00 AM

At a time of shortages in food, medical supplies and front line workers, a Kamloops university has donated supplies, groceries and manpower to ease the effects of COVID-19.

Dozens of medical students have graduated early so they can work on the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis. SIxty-five respiratory therapy students graduated a month early to enter the provincial workforce.

“We anticipated ending the year early due to the pandemic, so we condensed some clinical shifts and created alternate assessments to ensure that the students had met clinical and academic objectives. This helped immediately add to the Respiratory Therapist workforce within the province. They are currently being orientated to their new hospital positions as staff respiratory therapists on the front lines,” says Mike Lemphers, Thompson Rivers University clinical co-ordinator and associate teaching professor of the respiratory therapy program.

According to Rani Srivastava, dean of the Thompson Rivers University school of nursing, some nursing and health-care assistant students graduated a week early to get into the workforce. Even if students weren’t part of the group that graduated early, they can still be utilized in the fight against COVID-19.

“Nursing students are already on the frontlines. Depending on whether they are in their first, second, third or fourth year of training, some nursing students are able to help out with the pandemic effort,”  Srivastava says in an email statement to “We balance students’ level of education and skill with what the regulatory agencies require as well as with what is appropriate and needed in the health-care sector. We can’t put students or patients at risk, so this is done on an individual basis.”

Srivastava adds that some of the nursing students must continue with their studies before being put on the front lines, and says all of them have been impacted by lifestyle changes, job loss and other concerns due to COVID-19.


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In addition to the students, faculty from those two programs, if not already working in the medical field along with teaching, may be able to consider re-entering the front lines during this time, so long as educational requirements are still met.

“Many of our faculty are also practitioners. Some work in the hospital and teach for us,” Srivastava says, adding, “If our faculty all go to help out, there won’t be anyone teaching the nurses who will be needed in the workforce down the road.”

The situation is similar for the respiratory therapy staff and educators.

Lemphers says that removing the respiratory therapy educators might create a gap in student training, although it would assist the staffing crisis. He says rather than educators, Thompson Rivers University will support certain staff respiratory therapists who wish to work on the front line as they access training and practice so the non-critical care therapists can re-enter front line care.

“It would be far more effective to reintegrate staff respiratory therapists from diagnostic and non-acute areas back into bedside care. We are currently working with government ministries and hospital leaders to assist with clinical refresher opportunities for these staff therapists,” Lemphers says. “This will make an immediate impact on the number of respiratory therapists available to provide care for patients.”

While the staff and students work to fight COVID-19 on the front lines the school is honouring health care workers in a very visible way.

The Old Main building now shines pink to honour front line health care workers, says Darshan Lindsay, director of executive and government relations with Thompson Rivers University.

“The colour pink has been used by others to honour health-care workers. The Vancouver Canucks have pink lights outside of Rogers Arena, as does Nanaimo’s Bastion and Camosun College, among others,” Lindsay says in an email to

The pink hue and early graduations aren’t the only homages to health care workers, as various faculties have donated equipment to help during the crisis.

Between the school of nursing, respiratory therapy program, biological and physical sciences department and trades programs, the university has donated medical-grade N95 and LPR100 masks, gloves, gowns, alcohol swabs and wipes and loaned 18 ventilators, valued at over $1 million, to the Royal Inland Hospital and Interior Health Authority.

Even the culinary program and Thompson Rivers University’s meat store made a donation, although non-medical. They donated food on hand to local hospice and the Kamloops Food Bank in mid-March when classes were suspended.

“As the pandemic has spread and news about shortages has become known, faculty and staff have stepped up to offer what they can in this time of need. People in various departments have seen the need and taken the initiative themselves or sought the approval of their supervisors,” Lindsay says in the email.

Brett Fairbairn, the president of Thompson Rivers University, made a YouTube video touching on the adaptations and donations made by the faculties. Lindsay says the university is in close communication with health care partners and will continue to adapt to the situation.

For more information, check out the university’s updates on COVID-19.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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