MONTREAL -- In their first two weeks of in-the-field training, the dream of Quebec’s fast-track orderly program is bumping up against reality, again.

This time it’s the existing health-care staff who say the program is pushing the limits of what may be possible.

“My concern specifically is, is the care that's going to be provided safe?” asked Laura Bulmer, a registered nurse.

She said that having enough time in a proper practical classroom setting is crucial to learn the right techniques.

“You can't shorten that,” she said. “By doing that, it actually takes away from the importance of the job and the safety of residents in long-term care.”

The sped-up and very large class of 10,000 trainees has also meant that the on-the-job training places a big burden on existing orderlies.

One said he’d heard the ratio was one orderly to three trainees, which he said was much too high.

“How can you [train] three people, and you have your workload to take care of also?” said orderly Jean Bottari. 

“Because these people continue doing their job, continue taking care of patients… at the same time.”

One of the orderlies’ unions, the CSN, wants there to be a one-to-one ratio of orderlies to trainees, partly in order to help with physical distancing, says CSN representative Jeff Begley.

But the outcome of the program—for the trainees, trainers and patients—will only really become clear in mid-September, when the trainees start working solo in their first jobs, people said.

“Hopefully once September 15th comes and the training is done and these people start,” Begley said, the existing orderlies “won't be too exhausted from all the work they've had to do in the last four months.”