B.C. commits $7.9M to expand numbers in specialty nurse training

B.C. will continue to fund a doubling of nurse-training spots at the B.C. Institute of Technology as it seeks to recruit and train in-demand health-care workers for a system facing a staffing shortage.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday the province will fund an additional 611 training seats at BCIT for 2020-2021, at a cost of $7.9 million. The lift in seats gives the school 1,000 total spots in its speciality nursing program.

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The extra seats were first announced in 2018. Dix said the intention now is to provide the annual funding “on a permanent basis” for the school.

“What we need to continue to do, for the future of health care, is to ensure that we have a new generation of health-care professionals that provides us with a level of care that we’re going to need in the future, not just as an aging society, but as more broadly in society,” said Dix.

“If you can’t provide care and support, and home support, and community nursing, and supports in community, then those communities are going to have a very difficult time sustaining themselves.”

Speciality nursing programs train nurses with additional skills to work in places like emergency rooms, intensive-care units, operating rooms and newborn departments. Most often, the training is paid for by health authorities or employers. The specialty training is on top of the four-year basic registered nurse program or two-year licensed practical nurse education.

Dix said nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions in the province, and that the percentage of nurses working in specialty fields has risen to 60 per cent from 44 per cent four years ago.

BCIT president Kathy Kinloch said the funding will help provide advanced training with state-of-the-art equipment and robotics. Around 98 per cent of BCIT’s nursing degree graduates are employed within six months of graduating, she said.

“I would say for nursing, they are employed before they even get out the door,” said Kinloch.

B.C. Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen said there is a worldwide nursing shortage, as well as complex additional hurdles like lengthy wait times for courses in B.C. and issues with contract work versus full-time employment in the province.

“We know that about 40 per cent of the nurses who are currently working can retire in the next 10 years,” said Sorensen. “Then we are not producing enough graduates to meet the B.C. labour market outlook study, which says we need 25,000 more nurses on top of what we’ve got by 2030.”

 

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