Province supports allied health workforce, improves patient care

Press Release

Dec. 6, 2023

VICTORIA – The Province continues to put people first by launching the new Allied Health Strategic Plan (AHSP), which focuses on recruitment, retention, training and redesigning of the allied health workforce, to ensure people have access to the health-care providers they need.

“Nearly everyone has received care from an allied health professional at some point in their life,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Whether it is getting a blood sample collected by a medical laboratory assistant, seeing a physiotherapist for rehabilitation after surgery or talking about mental-health resources and community supports with a social worker, allied health professionals are a vital part of team-based health care that people in B.C. rely on. By taking action to support our allied health professionals and grow this workforce, we are ensuring that people in B.C. have access to the health-care provider they need when they need it.”

The AHSP is a multi-year road map that is part of and funded through B.C.’s Health Human Resources (HHR) Strategy, which was announced on Sept. 29, 2022. The strategy outlines 70 actions that focus on four cornerstones: retain, redesign, recruit and train. The AHSP highlights 42 actions in the HHR Strategy and introduces 15 new initiatives, for a total of 57 actions, that will directly affect and benefit the allied health workforce across the province. Investing in the allied health workforce means investing in the health and well-being of all people in British Columbia.

Actions in the AHSP will be implemented over the next three to five years. Some immediate actions include:

  • $15 million over three years to fund training bursaries for priority programs, with the goal of attracting more students to priority nursing, allied-health education programs and public health sector, as well as strengthening Indigenous-student recruitment (HHR Strategy action 57); and
  • building clinical-practice leadership and clinical-educator capacity around the province through an investment of more than $30 million over three years to establish new senior allied-health leadership roles throughout B.C.’s health authorities and Providence Health Care, which will support more effective clinical-practice oversight and education of allied health professionals to ensure high quality, appropriate, timely and safe patient care (HHR Strategy action 15).

Work to strengthen the allied health workforce has been ongoing and includes:

  • Bursaries for internationally educated allied health professionals that will help cover costs associated with credential assessments, English language testing, supplemental education, and more (HHR Strategy action 37). There was $4.5 million initially announced in July 2022 and supported the launch of the Internationally Educated Physiotherapists bursary program in June 2023. Additional program expansions will support internationally educated medical laboratory technologists, occupational therapists and other high-demand allied health professions.
  • Announced in July 2022, expanded health-education opportunities for students looking to join the allied health workforce, with as much as 322 new allied health seats in multiple programs at post-secondary institutions around B.C. (HHR Strategy action 69). As of September 2023, 238 of the 322 seat expansions have been implemented, with remaining seat expansions on track to be fully implemented by September 2026.

In July 2023, B.C. appointed a new Provincial Chief Allied Health Officer, the first position of its kind in Canada, based on best-practice evidence from several international jurisdictions. The Provincial Chief Allied Health Officer will provide stewardship and provincial oversight of the AHSP. Establishing this leadership role highlights ongoing commitment from the Province to lead the way in recognizing and supporting allied health professionals to ensure a co-ordinated, integrated system of care focused on improved patient-centred health outcomes for people in B.C.

British Columbia’s allied health workforce is the second largest health workforce in the province. It includes more than 70 disciplines and approximately 70,000 to 75,000 individuals, who provide a range of preventative, diagnostic, technical and therapeutic health care, as well as clinical support services across the lifespan and continuum of care.

The actions outlined within the AHSP were developed through provincial consultations with more than 6,000 members of B.C.’s allied health workforce, as well as key health- and education-sector partners from public and private sectors. The Allied Health Strategic Plan, combined with B.C.’s Health Human Resource Strategy, will strengthen and support health human resources within the province and help build a public health-care system people can count on now and for generations to come.

Quotes:

Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills –

“Access to post-secondary education and training is essential to get more people working in B.C.’s health-care system. The New Allied Health Strategic Plan is creating more opportunities for people to train for new, good-paying jobs in an expanding career field and helping people in B.C. get the care they need.”

Gemma de Jesus, medical laboratory assistant at Vancouver General Hospital –

“I’ve been a medical lab assistant for more than 20 years, helping patients get to their diagnosis. Lab assistants are an important part of the health-care team and I hope that more British Columbians consider a rewarding career in medical lab sciences.”

Kane Tse, president, Health Sciences Association –

“Allied health workers, like the doctors and nurses they work alongside every day, are burning out. As the union representing more than 20,000 of the specialized health professionals who provide diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, we are encouraged by this government’s recognition that health care is provided by a diverse team. The Allied Health Strategic Plan, as part of B.C.’s wider Health Human Resources Strategy, is essential to attracting the people needed to keep our health-care system running. We look forward to working with the minister to provide more support for those entering the health sciences or continuing to serve, especially in rural communities.”

Meena Brisard, secretary-business manager, Hospital Employees’ Union –

“We welcome and applaud this government’s work over the past few years to improve access to health care, while tackling worker shortages and other factors contributing to worker burnout and injuries. New measures to recruit and retain workers in health care’s front lines, like those announced today, should help further improve working and caring conditions in B.C.’s health-care system.”

Learn More:

To read the full Allied Health Strategic Plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Allied_Health_Strategic_Plan.pdf

To learn about B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0059-001464

To read about allied health training seat expansion, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022HLTH0047-001138

For more information about the bursary programs, contact: healthbursaries@gov.bc.ca

Five backgrounders follow.

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887


BACKGROUNDER 1

What to know about Allied Health Strategic Plan actions

The actions within the Allied Health Strategic Plan (AHSP) align with four cornerstones of the Health Human Resources (HHR) Strategy: retain, redesign, recruit and train. The 57 actions announced in the AHSP are:

Retain:

The government fosters healthy, safe and inspired workplaces by taking the following actions:

  • Provincial health workforce consultation and engagement policy (HHR action 16).
  • Provincial health-sector work environment survey (HHR action 17).
  • Health-system partners to adopt the provincial allied health definition for policy and program development and allied health service planning.
  • Create and disseminate an Allied Health Policy Secretariat newsletter, highlighting objectives, achievements and progress on the strategic plan.
  • Develop evidence-based profiles for allied health occupations linked to the ministry’s strategic priorities and system efficiencies.
  • Continue to proclaim Oct. 14 as Allied Health Professionals Day in B.C.
  • Clinical management capacity building (HHR action 14).
  • Clinical-practice leader and clinical-educator capacity building (HHR action 15).
  • Conduct a comprehensive review/gap analysis of current clinical/organizational infrastructure and existing allied health leadership roles in the province.
  • Strengthen collaboration with Lower Mainland pharmacy services, pathology and laboratory medicine, and medical imaging.
  • Review job descriptions and expand eligibility for leadership/excluded management positions to be jointly advertised for nursing and allied health.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review/gap analysis of current leadership learning supports in the province.
  • Develop learning pathways for career development and implement leadership training for allied health professionals.
  • Violence-prevention training and framework implementation (HHR action 2).
  • Targeted provincial retention incentives (HHR action 6).
  • Health child care strategy and child care pilot expansion (HHR action 7).
  • Provincial peer support and mentoring program (HHR action 8).
  • Provincial organizational standard for cultural safety and cultural humility (HHR action 10).
  • Provincial diversity, equity and inclusion framework (HHR action 12).
  • Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) (HHR action 13).
  • B.C. health authorities and Providence Health Care to increase full-time equivalencies and regularize high-priority allied health positions based on the expansion of team-based care and patient need/volumes.

Redesign:

The government aims to optimize and innovate B.C.’s health system by taking the following actions:

  • Workload standards (HHR action 18).
  • Specialized work design teams (HHR action 19).
  • Provincial health workforce innovation (HHR action 20).
  • Team-based primary-care training program (HHR action 21).
  • Nursing and allied health role optimization (HHR action 24).
  • Emergency medical assistant scope of practice expansion (HHR action 25).
  • Optimize pharmacy services to support primary care (HHR action 26).
  • Scope of practice review policy framework (HHR action 27).
  • Virtual care and telehealth strategy (HHR action 28).
  • Human Capital Management System (HCMS) implementation (HHR action 30).
  • Provincial travel resource pool (HHR action 34).
  • Clinical exercise physiologist certification support program (HHR action 35).
  • Support the Health Professions and Occupations Act modernization and recommendations to regulate additional allied health professions.
  • Support research to advance allied health workforce optimization, leadership and system redesign.

Recruit:

The government’s aim is to attract and onboard new allied health workers through the following actions:

  • Internationally educated allied health providers assessment support program (HHR action 37).
  • British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) expansion (HHR action 38).
  • Credential recognition process improvement (HHR action 39).
  • Career Paths for Skilled Immigrants Program expansion (HHR action 40).
  • Provincial health-sector housing strategy (HHR action 42).
  • Integrated provincial recruitment supports (HHR action 44).
  • Indigenous-specific recruitment strategy (HHR action 46).
  • Recruitment incentives (HHR action 47).
  • Health and care careers promotion program (HHR action 48).
  • New graduate transition program (HHR action 49).
  • Work with the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills to improve geographic distribution of the allied health workforce to support service delivery in rural and remote communities.

Train:

The government is focused on creating accessible career pathways by taking the following actions:

  • New employer-sponsored Earn and Learn programs (HHR action 53).
  • Health authority led training framework (HHR action 55).
  • Professional-development opportunity promotion (HHR action 56).
  • Priority program bursaries (HHR action 57).
  • Employed allied health and student nurse program (HHR action 58).
  • Rehabilitation assistant program expansion (HHR action 67).
  • Rural pathways to health education program expansion (HHR action 68).
  • Health education expansion implementation (HHR action 69).
  • Student practice education capacity building (HHR action 70).
  • Implement a joint student practice education policy for the health and education sector.
  • Work with system partners to develop streamlined learning pathways for priority allied health roles.

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887


BACKGROUNDER 2

What to know about priority-program bursaries

The Ministry of Health will invest as much as $5.1 million every year for three years to implement action 57 of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which commits to developing and introducing bursaries designed to attract students to priority nursing and allied health education programs. To support prioritized-health programs, three bursary streams have been developed:

  1. Student Recruitment and Retention bursary
  2. Indigenous Student Recruitment bursary
  3. Public Sector Recruitment bursary.

These bursaries aim to improve uptake of health training opportunities, fill key workforce gaps and support recruitment into public sector.

The Student Recruitment and Retention bursary provides $2,000 per student per program year for eligible students in the following programs:

  • medical laboratory assistant (MLA);
  • medical laboratory technology (MLT);
  • medical radiography technology (MRT);
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology (first discipline);
  • nuclear medicine;
  • respiratory therapy;
  • environmental health; and
  • radiation therapy.

Bursaries are being distributed through post-secondary institutions across the province.

The Indigenous Student Recruitment bursary provides $5,000 per student per program year in the following programs:

  • practical nursing;
  • access to practical nursing;
  • psychiatric nursing;
  • midwifery;
  • nurse practitioner;
  • physical therapy (PT);
  • occupational therapy (OT);
  • speech language pathology (SLP); and
  • dietetics.

Bursaries are being distributed through post-secondary institutions across the province.

The Public Sector Recruitment bursary is under development and incentivizes students in their final program year to work in the public sector by offering a $10,000 bursary in exchange for a one-to-two-year return of service to the public sector, dependent on employment status (full time versus part time). The bursary will be launched in early 2024.

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887


BACKGROUNDER 3

What to know about internationally educated allied health professionals bursary

The Province is making it easier for internationally educated allied health professionals to work in B.C.’s health-care system with new financial supports.

On June 12, 2023, the Internationally Educated Physiotherapist (IEPT) bursary program was launched, the first internationally educated allied health bursary program, aimed at attracting IEPTs to become licensed to practice in B.C.’s health workforce to provide critical services across the province. The IEPT bursary program will be followed by bursary programs to support internationally educated medical laboratory technologists and occupational therapists, with more allied health occupations to come.

The bursaries will mitigate financial barriers and ease transition to working in B.C. for allied health professionals by covering costs related to credential assessments, English language testing, supplemental education, and more. Participants will be required to commit to employment in the public health-care system by signing a Return of Service agreement, which will increase the recruitment of eligible allied health professionals into B.C.’s public health sector.

Through this program, IEPTs will no longer be required to pay the application fee for credential assessment upfront, which costs more than $1,400. Working in partnership with the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators, this fee will be paid directly by the Province to further remove financial barriers for IEPTs who want to work in B.C.

The bursary program is anticipated to support as much as 400 allied health professionals in the first year, and more each following year.

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887


BACKGROUNDER 4

What to know about allied health occupations training seat expansions

In July 2022, the government announced as much as 322 new allied health seats for multiple programs at post-secondary institutions across the province. These expansions are supported by an investment of approximately $18 million over three years.

As of September 2023, 238 of the 322-seat expansions had been implemented for programs that train:

  • anesthesia assistants (10);
  • dietitians (12);
  • genetic counsellors (2);
  • medical laboratory assistants (24);
  • medical laboratory technologists (28);
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologists (12);
  • occupational therapists (16);
  • radiation therapists (8);
  • respiratory therapists (40);
  • pharmacy technicians (41);
  • rehabilitation assistants (20); and
  • social workers (25).

Additional expansions are on track to be implemented by the end of 2024 to train more:

  • physiotherapists (20);
  • rehabilitation assistants (20); and
  • speech language pathologists (8).

The final expansions, planned for September 2026 are on track to train more:

  • occupational therapists (16); and
  • physiotherapists (20).

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887


BACKGROUNDER 5

What to know about allied health occupations and professions

Here are some examples of allied health occupations and professions.

Regulated professions:

Regulated professions under the Health Professions Act*, the Emergency Health Services Act**, and the Social Workers Act*** are:

  • acupuncturist*;
  • audiologist*;
  • chiropractor*;
  • dental hygienist*;
  • dental technician*;
  • denturist*;
  • dietitian*;
  • emergency medical responder**;
  • fire first responder**;
  • hearing instrument practitioner*;
  • massage therapist*;
  • naturopathic physician*;
  • occupational therapist*;
  • optician*;
  • optometrist*;
  • paramedic**;
  • pharmacist*;
  • physiotherapist*;
  • psychologist*;
  • registered social worker***;
  • speech language pathologist*; and
  • traditional Chinese medicine practitioner*.

Clinical assistants:

Assisting occupations in support of health services include:

  • activity assistant/worker;
  • certified dental assistant;
  • medical laboratory assistant;
  • pharmacy assistant;
  • recreation therapy assistant; and
  • rehabilitation assistant.

Technical:

Technical occupations in health include:

  • anesthesia assistant;
  • dental therapist;
  • diagnostic medical sonographer;
  • medical laboratory technologist****;
  • medical radiation technologist;
    • magnetic resonance technologist
    • nuclear medicine technologist
    • radiation therapist****
    • radiological technologist
  • perfusionist****;
  • pharmacy technician; and
  • respiratory therapist****.

**** To be regulated under the health profession regulatory framework modernization.

Social/community:

Counselling and mental-health occupations and related specialized therapists include:

  • art therapist;
  • behavioural analyst/consultant;
  • community mental health support worker;
  • child life specialist;
  • clinical counsellor;
  • clinical ethicist;
  • genetic counsellor;
  • music therapist; and
  • spiritual-health professional.

Therapy:

Therapy and assessment occupations include:

  • clinical exercise physiologist;
  • kinesiologist; and
  • recreation therapist.

Contact:

Ministry of Health
Communications
250 952-1887

IHT4

NationTalk Partners & Sponsors Learn More