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UNBC launches new nursing school in the Northeast, classes begin 2020

melanie-mark-dan-davies in fsj
B.C. Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark (left) high-fives B.C. Liberal MLA for Peace River-North Dan Davies (via Northern Lights College)

A new northern B.C. school to train nurses has been given the green light.

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark was in the Peace region yesterday (June 7) to make the historic announcement of a new UNBC nursing degree program with the support of $1.1 million in funding.

This comes after more than a decade of advocacy from local education, health, and civic leaders.

“After years of advocacy, I’m thrilled to announce the green light for the first-ever nursing degree program in the northeast,” Mark said to the applause of more than three dozen staff, students, and local officials at Fort St. John Hospital. “I can talk you about what it took for me to get here, but I didn’t get here without your advocacy, and everyone coming together with your hard work, passion, stressing the importance of having accessible education in all areas of our province.”

The funding will support a five semester, two-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program based at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John that will train 32 students a year at full capacity.

The first class of 16 students is expected to start in September 2020.

The program also includes a partnership with Northern Health; students must have 60 university transfer credits to apply for the program.

Priority seating will be given to Northern Lights College and Indigenous students.

“We come here with a commitment to offer the best nursing program that we can,” Dr. Dan Ryan, provost and vice-president academic, for UNBC.

An estimated 24,200 nurses will be needed over the next decade in the province, while Northern Health estimates an average of 78 registered nurses per year will be needed in the northeast over the next four years to fill staffing gaps.

Officials say the new program will help with recruitment and retention, address emerging localized needs, and have an impact in the region for generations to come.

“When we educate people from the north in the north, they will stay in the north,” said Edward Stanford, Northern Health board director. "Northern Health has committed to making practicum placements available for students. Northern Health looks forward to the day when we can hire new graduates from this program."

- with files from Matt Preprost, Alaska Highway News


Kyle  Balzer

About the Author: Kyle Balzer

Kyle Balzer graduated with distinction from BCIT's Broadcast & Online Journalism program in 2016. Since moving to Prince George, he has covered a variety of stories from education & Indigenous relations, to community interests & sports.
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