The health care shortage in the north is not exclusive to physicians and through a revamped delivery model, the Ontario government is providing a new pathway for nursing education in North Bay with the launch of Canadore College’s new stand-alone four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
“Staffing our health care system has been identified as an urgent and pressing issue, as the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on our province’s health human resources,” said Paul Heinrich, President, North Bay Regional Health Centre. “This will help recruit future health care workers in the short term and help alleviate staffing shortages from retirements and burnout over the long term.”
Wednesday, Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli shared more details on a provincial government plan that dates back to before the COVID-19 pandemic. With recent changes, Ontario is allowing both publicly-assisted colleges and universities to offer a baccalaureate degree in nursing to increase opportunities for students to access a high-quality education.
“This is an important milestone for postsecondary education in Ontario. Canadore College will offer a stand-alone nursing degree independent of a partner institution right here in North Bay,” said Dunlop. “Given Canadore’s northern location, the college is in a unique position to address an acute regional need for nurses, and our government is increasing choices and reducing barriers to high-quality, local education for students."
In her remarks, Dunlop mentioned the "nursing gap" between the number of nurses practicing in Ontario at present — and future needs. Dunlop noted that the gap is most evident "in sectors where front-line workers care for our most vulnerable patients, such as long-term care; home and community care; and, acute care. We need more registered nurses and registered practical nurses in Ontario — and more urgently — more nurses in underserved areas of the province."
The first cohort of nursing students in Canadore College’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing program will start in September 2022. Canadore College is also launching a new Registered Practical Nurse to BScN bridging program, with spots to be offered in September 2023.
“We are excited to begin providing greater access to people who want to pursue a nursing career and help meet the growing need for nurses in Ontario’s healthcare system,” said George Burton, President, Canadore College. “Canadore has been delivering nursing programs in several different formats for more than three decades, including the Collaborative BScN program with Nipissing University. Our tradition of excellence will continue with the launch of our stand-alone Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in fall 2022.”
Burton advised the bridging program accommodates nursing students with diplomas who wish to pursue a degree. The courses offered are intended to provide the student with a "seamless transition," he said. "I don't want the bridging program to be lost," in the discussion today. "It provides additional pathways for students and we are sure most of those students will remain in the north to close this nursing gap."
“This new stand-alone nursing degree will provide prospective nursing students with additional options for training,” said North Bay Mayor Al McDonald. “It will also help to equip more people with the professional expertise that’s needed to strengthen our health care system here in North Bay and across the province.”
To become a registered nurse with the College of Nurses of Ontario, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is compulsory.
“Having a local, stand-alone nursing degree program at Canadore College here in North Bay will give local students a chance to study for this rewarding career closer to home,” said Fedeli. “The pandemic has accelerated the need for more qualified health care professionals, and this new program at Canadore will result in nurses training, working and living in the North.”
Ontario has earmarked $35 million to increase enrolment in nursing education programs in publicly-assisted colleges and universities across the province, the province is also providing up to $136,526 to help increase enrolment in nursing education programs at Canadore College, supporting the education of additional practical nursing students.
“Ontario’s nurses have gone above and beyond to provide exceptional care throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are truly grateful for their dedication,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott. “I am pleased that Canadore College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program will offer students additional options as they pursue their nursing education, hopefully encouraging even more Ontarians to explore this important career.”