College of the Rockies welcomes first cohort of fourth year nursing students

The College and the University of Victoria are in partnership to offer the nursing program entirely at the Cranbrook campus.

Nursing students practice their skills.

Through the four years of the program, students take part in thirteen practical experiences, with their entire final semester spent in practice. — Photo courtesy College of the Rockies

As the 2018/19 fall semester gets underway, College of the Rockies is thrilled to welcome its first cohort of nursing students who will graduate from the four-year nursing program at the Cranbrook campus.

The College has been educating nurses for over 25 years and has been in partnership with the University of Victoria to offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) since September 2005. For most of that time, students completed their first five semesters at College of the Rockies, before moving to Victoria to complete their final three semesters.

The expansion of the nursing program reflects the growing need for healthcare workers in the East Kootenay, and the College’s ongoing efforts to ensure a skilled workforce to meet the region’s needs.

“In offering the full four years of the BSN program here in the East Kootenay, we aim to encourage students to remain here upon graduation and to fill vacancies in this region,” says Dean of Health and Human Services, Norma Sherret. “Nurses who have been educated locally, then establish their careers here have a better understanding of the health needs of our region and are well-prepared to provide health services to rural and remote communities.”

With an aging population and growing retirement rates, WorkBC forecasts a need for almost 24,000 registered nurses in the province in the next 10 years, 500 in the Kootenay region alone.

Interior Health’s Acute Health Services Administrator, Erica Phillips is optimistic about the impact that the BSN program in Cranbrook will have.

“Having a full nursing program locally will allow students to see the exciting careers and quality of life that the East Kootenay and Interior Health have to offer,” she says.  We know that health care professionals who receive education in a specific region are more likely to stay there to work when they graduate. This will help us recruit and retain nurses in the East Kootenay, where we have an ongoing need.”

Through the four years of the program, students take part in thirteen practical experiences, with their entire final semester spent in practice. These practicums take place in Cranbrook, Golden, Invermere, Fernie, Kimberley and Creston. This provides a more rural context for students, preparing them to work in these environments.

Of the fifteen students currently in their last year of the BSN program, twelve of them plan to start their careers in the East Kootenay region.

Jesse Berg is a long-time East Kootenay resident who moved from Golden to Kimberley for the program. When he was exploring his education options, it was important that his education be accessible and reflective of where he would eventually work. In his second year at College of the Rockies he was delighted to learn the entire program would be available at the Cranbrook campus.

“Moving my family to Victoria would have been challenging,” he says. “Not only is it more expensive but my wife would have had to find a new job and we would have had to find daycare and housing. Knowing I could remain in Kimberley gave me the impetus to purchase a home there. We consider Kimberley our home and I plan to complete my nursing career in the area.”

The College’s close relationship with the Ktunaxa Nation adds yet another dimension to the learning experienced in the BSN program. “Our campus is located on Ktunaxa territory and through our partnerships with the Nation, our nursing students have had the benefit of learning from an Indigenous perspective, expanding their world view and enriching their readiness to be practicing nurses,” Sherret adds.

The College’s first cohort of BSN year four students will complete their program in April 2019.

Learn more about College of the Rockies and University of Victoria’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at: cotr.ca/regnurse

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