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Nursing degree program coming to the Northeast

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FORT ST. JOHN — The first nursing degree program in the Northeast will ensure more patients in the region can access care that will improve their quality of life, while students can pursue health-care education and training closer to home.

Funding to support the planning and implementation of the University of Northern British Columbia’s northern baccalaureate nursing program was announced by Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. The minister was joined by students, staff and faculty from Northern Lights College (NLC), the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Northern Health.

“For years, students in the northeast of the province have been advocating for the education and training to pursue a career in registered nursing closer to home,” said Mark. “We know that people are more likely to stay and work in the communities where they get their education and training. The new nursing degree program is the result of strong partnerships and engagement with local stakeholders. Our government is proud to invest in the next generation of healers, and health-care professionals.”

The UNBC program is a five-semester, two-year bachelor of science in nursing (BScN) program, which will support 32 students at full capacity. The first class of 16 student spaces, to be operated out of Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, is expected to be up and running by September 2020.

Students applying must have a minimum of 60 university transfer credits. Local students can obtain university transfer credit courses from Northern Lights College through multiple pathways. Priority seating will be available to self-declared Indigenous and Northern Lights College candidates.

“Training more nurses in the North is one of the best ways to secure better health care in the North,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “For years, people have been advocating for a nursing degree program in the Northeast, and I am so proud that our government is delivering. Today’s action enhances team-based care — the foundation of our new primary care plan — and help address issues of recruitment and retention of health care professionals. What a great day for public health care in northern B.C.”

Opening the doors to more training opportunities in the North for people to become registered nurses also supports the auditor general’s report entitled An Independent Audit of the Recruitment and Retention of Rural and Remote Nurses in Northern B.C.

While there have been isolated calls for the program for several years, partners were asked to come together by the Province. An integrated proposal from UNBC and NLC, with support from Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Ministry of Health Northern Health and Peace River Regional District, was submitted in summer 2018.

Total provincial funding for startup and the first class of the northern baccalaureate nursing program in Fort St. John is $1.1 million.

Quick Facts:
  • The B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasts that over the next decade, more than 900,000 jobs will need to be filled. Of those job openings, 77% will need some level of postsecondary education or training.
  • Nursing is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the province, reflecting caring for an aging population. An estimated 24,200 nursing job opening are expected in B.C. over the next decade, comprised of 19,600 registered nurses and 4,600 licensed practical nurses.

Learn More:
An Independent Audit of the Recruitment and Retention of Rural and Remote Nurses in Northern B.C.: