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B.C. government creating 602 new nurse training seats to ease staffing shortage

The new spaces include 362 seats for registered nurses, 40 registered psychiatric nurses, 20 nurse practitioners, and 180 licensed practical nurses.
Second-year nursing students at Camosun College practise their skills at the Alex Campbell Health and Wellness Building at the Interurban campus on Sept. 3, 2019. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

New training seats are being added at B.C. post-secondary schools to address the long-standing shortage of nurses, a move the head of the B.C. Nurses’ Union called “a promising step.”

The 602 new seats will add to 2,000 existing ones in nursing programs across the province.

They include seats for 362 registered nurses, 40 registered psychiatric nurses, 20 nurse practitioners and 180 licensed practical nurses. The program will also support health care assistants wanting to train as LPNs, as well as LPNs wanting to train as registered nurses.

Some of the new seats will be on ­Vancouver Island at Camosun College, the University of Victoria, North Island ­College and Vancouver Island University.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the investment is about building B.C.’s future health-care workforce, while Jobs ­Minister Ravi Kahlon said it will help to close a skills gap.

“The past two years have shown us just how critical our health workforce is,” Dix said.

Nurses are not only fundamental to the health system’s response to COVID, but to the opioid overdose crisis and all other health-care needs, he said.

He noted that the nursing workload has increased and the number of tasks nurses are asked to do continues to rise.

In a May 2021 survey by the B.C. Nurses’ Union, 35 per cent of respondents said the impact of the pandemic meant they were more likely to leave nursing within two years.

Union president Aman Grewal called the new training seats a “promising step toward solving the staffing crisis” but said there needs to be a focus on retaining nurses who are working now and aggressively recruiting for the future.

Staffing levels were already at a critical level before the pandemic and cracks in the system have deepened now, Grewal said. “Our nurses are tired, they’re burnt out and they need more support.”

Some of the new training spaces will open in September, while some may be offered every other year or on a schedule suiting local needs, the province said. Some new seats will be phased in over two or three years.

The province is also providing $475,000 to support graduate nurse education at UVic, the University of British Columbia and the University of Northern B.C. and working with post-secondary institutions to expand health-care assistant training. Additional growth in health education programs are underway.

The new seats are part of the Stronger B.C. Economic Plan released in the past week which focuses on supporting skills training.

Funding comes from $96 million committed over three years as part of last year’s budget to expand post-secondary education and training capacity for health professionals.

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Camosun College in partnership with UVic

New seats: 16 registered nurses plus the pathway for licensed practical nurses

First intake: September 2023


New seats: Five nurse practitioners, plus a pathway for master’s-trained nurses 

First intake: September 2022

Vancouver Island University 

New seats: 24 health care assistants training to be licensed practical nurses  

First intake: May 2023

Vancouver Island University 

New seats: Eight registered nursing seats, plus 24 for laddering of LPNs to RNs

First intake for LPN-to-RN laddering: May 2022 

First intake for registered nursing: Fall 2022

North Island College in partnership with VIU 

New seats: 24 for laddering of LPNs to RNs

First intake: September 2023

North Island College

New seats: Eight, plus 24 health care assistants training to be licensed practical nurses 

First intake: January 2023