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2023-2024 Academic Calendar

Access to Practical Nursing Diploma

Location(s): ​Dawson Creek, and ​Fort St. John

The Access to Practical Nursing (APN) program is designed to build on the Health Care Assistant Certificate (HCA). Students who complete or hold an HCA certificate* may complete the APN program in 16 months rather than the direct entry Practical Nursing (PN) program which is 22 months.

The APN program prepares graduates to provide professional nursing care to individuals and families in a range of settings. Graduates of the program can apply to write the Regulatory Exam – Practical Nurse (REx-PN) for licensure as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). LPNs are hired in the community, continuing care and acute care hospital settings. The NLC APN program meets or exceeds all of the Provincial education competencies required for Licensed Practical Nurse graduates.

This 16-month Diploma program is full-time study divided into three levels:

  • The Access level provides the balance of training from a combination of Levels 1 and 2 of the revised 2011 Practical Nursing Provincial Curriculum (2017), giving prior learning credits for knowledge and skills acquired in the HCA, RCA, HS/RCA certificate programs.
  • The next two levels are the same as Levels three and four of the revised 2011 Practical Nursing Provincial Curriculum (2017).

The APN program enables students to begin their health career education at NLC by completing a Health Care Assistant Certificate in 33-36 weeks. HCA graduates are required to obtain 600 hours of work experience as HCAs before bridging into the APN program, where after an additional 16 months of study they will graduate with their diploma in practical nursing. 

* Resident Care Attendants (RCA) or those with a combination of Home Support/Resident Care Attendant (HS/RCA) may also be recognized. Those entering with an education other than from a BC public post-secondary institution (HCA; RCA or HS/RCA Certificate) will need to provide active registration with the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry and will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Career Prospects

Licensed Practical Nurses work with other interprofessional, health care team members in a variety of settings and play an increasingly wide role in primary health care focusing on health promotion, illness and injury prevention, and health protection and restoration.


Dawson CreekFebruaryCohort
Fort St John*FebruaryCohort

* All courses are delivered via video-conference.  The laboratory component of some courses are delivered in Dawson Creek, therefore students must travel to the Dawson Creek campus:

  • Access Level lab classes are approximately two days per week for 16 weeks.
  • Level Three lab classes are approximately one day per week for 2 weeks.
  • Level Four lab classes are approximately three days per week for 10 weeks.


1550 hours.

This is a 16 month program, with a short break between the Access Level and Level Three.

Estimated Program Fees

Program fee type: Practical Nursing Diploma

Costs indicated are estimates for a full-time course load.

Book, instruments, supplies, uniforms/clothing and third-party fees are additional.

Domestic Fees

 TuitionStudent FeesInstruction-related
Fees (includes GST)
Year 1$ 2,926.80$ 83.88$ 627.40$ 3,638.08
Year 2 (estimated)$ 5,474.20$ 164.26$ 0.00$ 5,638.46

International Fees

 TuitionStudent FeesInstruction-related
Fees (includes GST)
Medical Insurance
Year 1$ 10,832.40$ 83.88$ 627.40$ 828.00$ 12,371.68
Year 2 (estimated)$ 20,260.60$ 167.54$ 627.40$ 828.00$ 21,883.54

Students enrolled in the APN Program can apply for the APN Program Education Incentive Bursary(opens in a new tab).

This is a $10,000 bursary offered by the BC Government. 

Still have Questions?


Admission Requirements

The following admission requirements reflect provincial standards mandated by the Practical Nursing Program Provincial Curriculum Guide Supplement.

Complete all requirements: 

  1. High school graduation requirement
    • ​Grade 12 graduation, or equivalent. 
  2. English requirement
    One of the following:
    • For applicants with English as a first language, one of the following*:
      • English 12 with a C+ grade or higher, or equivalent
      • English First Peoples 12 with a C+ grade or higher, or equivalent
    • For applicants with English as an Additional Language*, one of the following:
      • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) result with an overall score of 7.0 or higher and:
        • Speaking band of 7.0 or higher
        • Listening band of 7.5 or higher
        • Reading band of 6.5 or higher
        • Writing band of 7.0 or higher
      • Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN) with minimum scores of:
        • Speaking: 8.0
        • Listening: 10.0
        • Reading: 8.0
        • Writing: 7.0 
  3. Math requirement
    One of the following:
    • Foundations of Mathematics 11 with a minimum grade of C, or equivalent
    • Pre-Calculus 11 with a minimum grade of C, or equivalent
    • If course requirement is over ten years old or absent, complete the Canadian Adult Achievement Test (Number Operations and Problem Solving) with a minimum score of 11.9
  4. Biology requirement
    ​One of the following:
    • Anatomy and Physiology 12 with a minimum grade of C, or equivalent
    • Biology 12 with a minimum grade of C, or equivalent
  5. A&P requirement
    One of the following:
  6. Certificate requirement
    One of the following:
    • Health Care Assistant (HCA)
    • Resident Care Attendant (RCA)
    • Combined Home Support/Resident Care Attendant (HS/RCA)
    • Those entering with an education other than from a BC public post-secondary institution (HCA; RCA or HS/RCA Certificate) must provide active registration with the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry and will be assessed on a case by case basis.
  7. Work experience requirement
    All of:
    • Minimum 600 hours of work experience
    • Completed within the last two years; and
    • In a care facility where care is provided to a multiple patients/residents***
    • Work experience must be verified by an official employer letter (sample)


Applicants with English as an Additional Language are defined as those who do not have three years of full-time, face-to-face, secondary or post-secondary education at an accredited institution where English is the medium of instruction in a country where English is also an official national language. English as a Second Language/Additional Language courses are not included in this three-year calculation.  In addition to meeting English language admission requirements for the Provincial Practical Nursing Program, graduates who speak English as an additional language must be able to demonstrate performance-ready English proficiency as a condition for registration and practice in British Columbia. See BCCNM’s website for further details.

** The completion date for PNUR 099 or equivalent must be within five years of program initiation. Applicants may be granted conditional acceptance prior to completing PNUR 099 or its equivalent.  However, the PNUR 099 requirement must be successfully completed prior to the first day of classes in Semester One.

*** Working in a home care home care environment where one person is cared for at a time does note meet the requirement.

Post-Admission Requirements

The following post-admission requirements must be submitted to Admissions prior to the first day of classes:

  • Current CPR (Basic Life Support) certification1
  • Immunizations2
  • Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination2
  • Negative TB test indicating the absence of active tuberculosis2
  • N95 fit testing certification
  • Clearance letter from the Criminal Records Review Program (CRRP), for a Schedule “B” Criminal Record Check (CRC), WORKS WITH Children and Vulnerable Adults3

1 as outlined in the Health Sciences Placement Network Practice Education Guidelines – Orientation – Students.

2 as outlined in the Health Sciences Placement Network Practice Education Guidelines – Communicable Disease Prevention. Please make an appointment with public health nurse immediately to complete the Immunization Checklist.  The immunization process can take anywhere from one to three months, sometimes longer, so verifying immunization status is critical.

3 No student will be permitted to begin a workplace practicum until the CRC has been received by NLC. Failure to do so and may result in program withdrawal. For information and regulations, see Criminal Records Checks.

Important Notes

  1. The program is eligible for Canada Student Loans. Visit Student Aid BC to apply for financial assistance online.
  2. Students must provide their own supplies/equipment (stethoscope, uniforms*, lab coats*, WCB approved safety/nursing shoes, and a watch with a second hand).  Students are required to have a computer (laptop or other mobile device) with minimum computer requirements. Appropriate attire and shoes are required for lab courses and for clinical and preceptorship experiences.; students must purchase standardized program uniforms from the NLC Bookstore.
  3. The program is affiliated with Northern Health and the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives.
  4. Clinical learning experiences may occur in a variety of settings and communities.  Efforts will be made to place students in convenient clinical locations, but all students should be prepared for in-region travel. Transportation, meals, and accommodation are the responsibility of the student. After a clinical or preceptorship site is assigned by the Program Chair and instructor, no changes are permitted. 

Program Requirements

Residency Requirement

25% of total program hours must be completed at Northern Lights College

Minimum Grade Requirements

  • A minimum of 100% on all Pharmacology Math exams. A maximum of two rewrites are available for each Pharmacology Math exam (applies to APNP 134)
  • A minimum of 80% (A-) on the theory portion of the Pharmacology courses (applies to APNP134). 
  • A minimum of 80% is required to pass Integrated Lab Assessments or Skill Assessments in the Integrated Nursing Practice courses (applies to APNP 135 and PNUR 235, 245).  Should a mark of 80% not be achieved, a student will be allowed one retest for each Skills Assessment
  • A minimum of 75% on the theory portion of the Integrated Nursing Practice courses (applies to APNP 135 and PNUR 235, 245)
  • A minimum of 68% (B-) on all other theory nursing courses (APNP 130, 131, 132, 133 and PNUR 230, 231, 232, 233, 240, 241, 242, 243)

Continuance Requirements

Program progression/continuation requirements are assessed by instructors and program chair. Students who don’t meet program progression requirements are withdrawn from program.

In ALL cases, when a second test is necessary, the student and instructor will meet to discuss remedial strategies before the retest is attempted. Sufficient time for practice and improvement will be provided (minimum of two days).

In total, a maximum of two rewrites of a final exam are permitted for the theory portions of the Practical Nursing curriculum in a given academic year. No more than one supplemental exam can be written per theory course.

Access Level

All of:

Level Three

All of:

Level Four

All of:


Diploma in Practical Nursing