37 more nursing seats are being created at three University College of the North (UCN) campuses through $4.3 million in provincial funding, the advanced education minister announced in Thompson Dec. 14.
The seats will be divided up between the Thompson, Swan River and Flin Flon campuses, with Thompson adding 20 seats by doubling the number of intakes. The diploma in practical nursing (DPN) program that began in Thompson last September will now have yearly intakes instead of one intake every two years.
“Our government knows that our people are this province’s greatest asset and today we are building the skills, talent and knowledge that our labour market needs both now and in the future,” said Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration Minister Wayne Ewasko. “Today’s announcement provides Northern Manitoba the ability to train the nurses they need. Students who want to become nurses can do so closer to home and eventually gain employment close to home as well.”
UCN president Doug Lauvstad said training northerners in the north is a good way to keep professionals like nurses in the region for the long haul.
“The north is challenged in terms of recruitment and retention of professionals, particularly health care professionals,” Lauvstad said. “That grow your own strategy has worked across the north.”
Expanding the DPN program in Thompson will be easier than in the other two locations because of the facilities that already exist.
“We’ve got the equipment, We don’t have to build any additional laboratories. In other areas, the facilities we have are insufficient for an expanded cohort so we may have to do renovations and lease different space. In Thompson we’re all set up and ready to go.”
There were more than 100 applicants for the first intake of the Thompson DPN program so Lauvstad doesn’t anticipate many problems in finding enough students for next year or for those students finding emploiyment when they complete their education.
“If you graduate, you’ll get a job,” he said.
UCN also offers a bachelor of nursing four-year degree program in Thompson through a partnership with the University of Manitoba but health care facilities need staff with a range of training and skills.
“You nee the right and most appropriate mix,” said Lauvstad, who anticipates the expansion in Thompson will result in the hiring of at least two additional instructors. A co-ordinator will also be needed across all three sites to help arrange things like clinical placements.
Manitoba currently has about 800 nurse training seats spread across six post-secondary institutions around the province. More announcements about the expansion of nursing education will be made Dec. 15 by Premier Heather Stefanson and Health Minister Audrey Gordon in Winnipeg, Ewasko said.