After years of offering a nursing program that needed to be completed on Vancouver Island, the College of the Rockies is set to graduate the first cohort of students who completed their education in full at the Cranbrook campus.
Nurses have been educated by the college for 25 years, however, a partnership with the University of Victoria in 2005 allowed for local students to complete five semesters locally.
The local program was expanded two years ago after the province contributed $450,000 for supporting the transition and planning work needed to offer the full four years in the East Kootenay.
There is a growing need for health care workers across the region, according to college officials.
“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.”
WorkBC is forecasting a need for 24,000 registered nurses in the province over the next 10 years — 500 of which would be in the East Kootenay.
The ability to offer a four-year program in Cranbrook is drawing praise from Interior Health.
“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.”
Over the course of the program, students participate in 13 practical experiences in health care facilities in Cranbrook, Golden, Invermere, Fernie, Kimberley and Creston, with the final semester spent fully in practice.
Currently, there are 15 students in the final year of the nursing program, 12 of which are planning to stay in the East Kootenay to pursue their careers.
Jesse Berg is one of them.
Berg is a long-time East Kootenay resident who moved from Golden to Kimberley to get started on his nursing degree, and said he was ‘delighted’ when he heard the full program would be offered in Cranbrook.
“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 relationship with the Ktunaxa Nation adds another dimension to the learning experienced in the nursing program, added Sherret.
“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 said.
The College’s first cohort of BSN year four students will complete their program in April 2019.