Ivy Garcia has been hard at work. A student in Manitoba’s first class of operating room assistants (ORAs), Garcia and 29 peers at facilities across the province have spent the past 12 weeks blazing a new trail, participating in a demanding combination of online and skills lab activities that have prepared them for their new roles in surgical, operating and procedural environments.

It’s a challenging schedule, well-suited to students like Garcia, who has significant experience working as a health-care aide and a perioperative aide and who was recognized for her strong work ethic and motivation. 

“I was approached and encouraged to apply,” said Garcia, who has worked as a perioperative aide in HSC Winnipeg for nine years. “They recognized my motivation and thought that I could be successful in leveling up my skills.”

“The first half of the course was tough, learning the skills that would be one of the requirements to finish this course. My manager told me what to expect and once, I started working in the unit they helped me with everything I might need. I feel so glad that I am able to work in this area and I’m gaining lots of experience,” added Garcia.

Each ORA is training and working alongside a nurse mentor who expressed an interest in participating in the program. The mentors have identified the duties within their day-to-day work that can be completed by someone other than a nurse and have been working with the ORAs throughout their education and training.

It’s a role that Maureen Fudge, Clinical Resource Nurse in HSC’s Plastic Surgery, Reconstruction and Burns Unit, was quick to express an interest in.

“When our manager first asked who would be interested, I put together all the duties that I am responsible for that aren’t nursing roles, and felt that an ORA could really benefit our team,” said Fudge, who is working alongside Garcia. “We do some pretty complex cases here and there’s a lot behind the scenes that I support that is not nursing related, so having somebody to help has been really valuable.”

Two women stand in an operating theatre.
Maureen Fudge (left) and Ivy Garcia (right)

The connection between Garcia and Fudge is obvious as they talk about the role and the experience, expressing appreciation for each other and even completing each other’s sentences.

“In plastics we are very much a team and everyone works closely together so fitting into that dynamic is important. We knew that Ivy would be a great fit since we’ve worked with her previously,” said Fudge who has worked in the same unit as Garcia for the past nine years. “Ivy has had to learn a lot in a short period of time but she is committed to doing the work required, participating in the skills labs, and learning about the surgeries we are doing, the different equipment they each require, as well as things like how to open sterile supplies and how to turn the room over between surgeries.”

On a day-to-day basis, Fudge said, there may be two or three plastic surgery operating rooms running at the same time. The addition of a dedicated ORA is helping Fudge complete her patient-care duties, while ensuring that the necessary work to prepare for upcoming cases is done, something that she sees as a significant benefit.

“I encourage my co-workers to participate in the program if they have the opportunity,” said Fudge. “The ORAs can only help us. There are so many things that we do as a CRN that takes away from the time we have available for patient care. Having Ivy able to support those roles that don’t need to be completed by a nurse has been so helpful.”

This sense of appreciation for the newest member of the Plastic Surgery, Reconstruction, and Burns team is obvious and has created a welcoming, supportive environment as Garcia starts in her new role. 

“They are so kind to me. I’m so blessed with those people who are around me right now. I love working with them and supporting them,” said Garcia who confirmed that despite the hard work, she would make the decision to apply all over again. 

“Yes, definitely and I encourage my more senior coworkers to consider this opportunity. Come and join the team. You have the ability and the capacity to do well.”

Operating Room Assistants are working in operating and procedure rooms throughout Manitoba. Learn more about this important new role in Manitoba’s health system, or apply for a future intake, here.

Amber Chrisp is a health-care aide working in Flin Flon’s emergency department. It’s a role that keeps her busy and fulfilled, providing her with a strong sense that she is making a difference in her community, each and every day.

Caring for others has always come naturally for Amber Chrisp. A single mother to three boys, she was looking for a career that was both meaningful and that would support her family. Born and raised in Flin Flon, Chrisp found the perfect fit working as a health-care aide (HCA). The role allows her to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families right at home in her own community.

“I’ve been a health-care aide for the past 24 years and would not change a thing. From the smiles on patient’s faces to the hugs I’ve received, it has always made me feel grateful for having the opportunity to work in such a fulfilling field.”

Health-care aides support many different areas within the health care system. Chrisp began her career working in a long-term care facility and then moved into a hospital setting, working in an acute medicine/pediatric unit. For the past five years, Chrisp has been working full time in Flin Flon’s General Hospital Emergency Department, an important member of a multidisciplinary team of Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Emergency Physicians and a Respiratory Therapist.

“No two days are ever alike, it’s such an exciting career.” I chose the emergency department to challenge myself in a new area of health care.”

Navigating the fast-paced and often high-pressure environment of an emergency department is challenging, but Amber remains a patient and calm support for those in need of care, offering a comforting word or a hand to hold as she goes about her daily tasks

“We see patients in all levels of acuity, and every day I am inspired to better myself to provide the best level of care I can to help my patients in their healing process.”

As a team player, Chrisp understands the value her role brings to a patient’s overall health care experience. Transporting patients, assisting physicians with procedures, preparing suture trays, sanitizing rooms for safety, and using her CPR training to perform chest compressions during emergency codes are just some of the activities that Amber is trained to support. While some days are more difficult than others, Chrisp always gives 110 per cent to her patients, helping them stay calm in stressful situations and ensuring they are well taken care of during their stay.

“I pride myself on being able to help the team and our patients anyway I can within my scope of practice to make each patient’s experience a positive one.”

Health Care Aide

“It’s the patients, that relationship with them. Knowing that I helped encourage somebody, anybody, to push through and find their strength in a time where it’s near impossible to, because it’s easier to stay in the dark than it is to see the light.”

Health Care Aide

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