The first cohort of 13 students have started their nursing studies in Fort St. John.
They are the first class in the new Northern Baccalaureate Nursing Program through the University of Northern British Columbia, announced in 2019 and housed at the UNBC space in the Northern Lights College campus.
"We are thrilled to welcome our first cohort of students into the Northern Baccalaureate Nursing Program,” said UNBC interim president Geoff Payne in a statement. “This impressive group of 13 students, along with our phenomenal faculty in the School of Nursing, represents a new chapter for health-care education in the northeast."
The province says it is supporting the program with $3.3 million in capital funding. The program is aimed to make nursing education more accessible for people living in northeast B.C., and to improve access to health care in the region by training nurses locally, the province said.
"In the North, people deserve access to the high-quality, local care that the Northern Baccalaureate Nursing Program will provide in its graduates," said Health Minister Adrian Dix. "When students receive the best training on how to deliver care in northeastern communities, the people living in them will benefit from having access to health-care workers who understand their specific needs."
UNBC has partnered with Northern Lights College to expand its footprint on campus. The province says renovations provide a new and contemporary space that facilitates hands-on learning in a new nursing lab and expands classroom capacity, supporting both face-to-face and online learning for students.
"Northern B.C. students that want to become registered nurses have an incredible opportunity thanks to our partnership with Northern Health and UNBC," said Loren Lovegreen, the senior vice-president, academic and research at Northern Lights College. "Being able to get their education close to home and work in this region once they finish is not only beneficial to them, but to our health-care industry as well."
The two-year program runs in five consecutive semesters, featuring both face-to-face classroom instruction and online components. Students will complete clinical practicums in a variety of hospital, clinic and community settings in collaboration with Northern Health, and will graduate with a bachelor of science in nursing.
Students must have 60 university-level post-secondary credits to apply to the program. Northern Lights College is also offering associate degrees designed to feed into the program, the province said.
The province says the new program addresses one of the recommendations made by the Auditor General in its report, 'Independent Audit of the Recruitment and Retention of Rural and Remote Nurses in Northern British Columbia'.
"We recognize there are nursing recruitment challenges in the northeast region and beyond, but we also know that training people close to where they live makes a difference," said Northern Health Board Chair Colleen Nyce. "This program is a significant development in ensuring northeastern B.C. residents have health-care education and employment opportunities close to home, and Northern Health looks forward to welcoming future nursing graduates from this program."
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