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Northern B.C.’s first sonography program gets underway

Eight sonography students at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) celebrated the first time the program has been available outside the Lower Mainland at an event to officially open renovated classrooms and lab space.

The Northern Diagnostic Medical Sonography program opened at CNC’s Prince George campus on January 7. It is one of only two publicly funded sonography programs in British Columbia.

“A sonography program at CNC will help tackle waitlists, while providing the opportunity for northern graduates to succeed and thrive closer to home,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, in a news release. “By investing in people and creating affordable and accessible education opportunities for in-demand jobs, our government is building a highly skilled, job-ready workforce that will allow everyone to access the services they need to live, work and study. This is a great day for all students in B.C., especially those at CNC.”

Diagnostic medical sonographers are an integral part of the health-care team. They play a critical role by providing key information leading to earlier diagnosis and support ongoing patient management using ultrasound technology.

At CNC, sonography students get dual training in both cardiac ultrasound and general ultrasound, which looks at the abdomen, pelvis and obstetrics.

“Here in the North, there is a great need for sonographers trained in both general and cardiac ultrasound,” said Glenda Vardy Dell, CNC dean of the school of health sciences. “CNC students are in a unique position, because they will be equipped to offer dual skill sets to the hospital or clinic they work in.”

CNC’s sonography lab is equipped with eight state-of-the-art ultrasound machines and ultrasound simulators. The high-fidelity simulators use augmented reality to facilitate engaging and intuitive learning in cardiac, lung, abdominal and obstetrics/gynecology ultrasound.

“CNC students are trained on the newest technology available in the field of sonography,” added Vardy Dell.

Admission preference was given to northern B.C. candidates, to address regional demand by encouraging students who are from the North to study and continue to work in the area. Of the eight students in the first cohort of the program, seven are from northern B.C.

“We are very pleased to see the start of this important addition to health care education opportunities in the North,” said Dr. Shyr Chui, Northern Health medical lead, diagnostic imaging.

“CNC’s sonography program has been a remarkable experience so far,” said Sara Wiggins, a student in the CNC’s first cohort. “Using ultrasound machines to learn about the human body is really exciting.”

The province is providing $640,000 in annual funding – $400,000 for one-time startup costs and capital funding of $1.5 million for equipment and renovations.

The number of students enrolled in the program’s second cohort is scheduled to increase to 16 during the next intake.



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