District nursing students will be able to get their education closer to home starting next fall.
Confederation College will be offering a fourth intake of the Community-Based Collaborative Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program in September, 2019.
The program, in partnership with Lakehead University, will be supported at a selection of regional campuses, including Fort Frances, Dryden, Lake of the Woods (Kenora), and Sioux Lookout.
Local resident Heather Johnson said she “couldn't be happier to hear the news” and hopes to get admitted to the program next September.
“It's absolutely amazing that the college is able to offer this program locally in our district, as well as our surrounding communities,” she told the Times.
“A group of us who are taking our university stream pre-health sciences have been expressing interest to take this program,” Johnson noted.
"Now that it's a reality, the next step is to secure an offer of admission.
“This announcement couldn't have came at a better time with our final exams coming up over this week and next,” she added.
“It's really made me want to buckle down with studying to ensure my marks are as high as I can get them for entry.”
Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch said the college is “thrilled to be able to bring this important program back to our regional communities,” adding the last intake for the four-year BScN program was in 2014.
“We know there is a clear need for qualified individuals in health care across Northwestern Ontario,” she noted.
“We look forward to bringing this educational opportunity to students where they live, to support them in attaining the skills and knowledge required to successfully pursue careers in their home communities,” Lynch added.
The Community-Based Collaborative BScN program was started back in 2006 “to provide access to people in the region and assist local health-care organizations, especially hospitals, grow their own talent and retain nurses,” Lynch explained.
Prior to then, nursing students would have to relocate to Thunder Bay.
Lori Maki, vice-president of Health Services and Chief Nursing Executive for Riverside Health Care, said the program has been valuable for local health care.
For example, the last two intakes produced 10 local graduates, eight of whom are working for Riverside, with others fulfilling roles in the community.
“Riverside regularly and has historically accommodated clinical placements of our Confederation College students for a number of years, and was selected as one of the college's Employers of the Year for 2010-2011,” she noted.
“This award was presented 'in recognition of the time, support, and significant contribution made by an employer to the success of Confederation College students,'” Maki added.
“It is worthy to note that the Community-Based Collaborative BScN has strengthened nursing capability across the northwest, and has been fundamental in our success in developing a viable and sustainable nursing workforce at Riverside and within each of our communities,” Maki remarked.
She added the program “has provided career opportunities to individuals in their respective communities while supporting learning and training in the facilities where they will be practising.”
Maki explained that stakeholders pushed for the fourth intake, noting Lakehead University and Confederation College decided not to commit to a new intake for the Community-Based Collaborative BScN this past summer.
But then Chief Nursing Executives (CNEs) at the respective campuses drafted letters of concern on behalf of their hospitals and communities, and requested the college and university reconsider their decision.
“Certainly, I would expect these submissions by our CNE group to both Confederation College's president and Lakehead University's dean were taken into consideration in the decision to offer a new intake,” she reasoned.
Maki said the CNEs also heard from RPNs who had expressed an interest in advancing their career opportunities by enrolling in the program.
“Students with families and young children, not to mention other commitments, are able to learn and train in their home community and this leads to viable, successful health human resource planning for our hospitals,” she noted.
Maki said there is a nursing shortage in general for several reasons.
The RN program has gone from a two-and-a-half-year one to a four-year one, for example, and the scope of practice has extended beyond the hospital to include opportunities in the community with other agencies that also offer Monday-Friday daytime hours, she noted.
As such, the absence of a commitment for a new intake “would push our recruitment and retention efforts backwards, where we would be working with a very restricted pool of nurses in the region,” Maki stressed.
“Additionally, we would be looking at incurring additional overtime and an increased reliance on nursing agencies to provide nursing coverage, with the latter providing only temporary relief, unfamiliar staffing, and significant added costs,” she said.
Confederation College's Collaborative BScN program is a joint program with Lakehead University.
Currently in Ontario, to practice as an RN, you need a degree from a university—hence Confederation College has partnered with Lakehead University to offer the program.
Successful graduates write a licensing exam and if they pass, they can practice as a RN.
According to Confederation College, the partnership with Lakehead U. “offers the advantage of two institutions, each with our own rich history in nursing education.”
“Students take classes on both campuses learning from nursing faculty with expertise in the broad scope of nursing practice,” it noted.
“Together, we offer students a cutting-edge nursing program that prepares them for a career in modern health care.”
Individuals can learn more about the program, and indicate their interest in applying, by visiting www.confederationcollege.ca/bscn/community-based