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Entrance award for nursing students hopes to address health care shortages

Coast Mountain College aims to draw more students, keep them in the north after completing training
Coast Mountain College’s campus in Terrace (Photo contributed)

Students heading into Coast Mountain College’s nursing program this fall will receive an entrance award of $1500.

The additional funding adds up to about 40 per cent of the first year’s tuition, and will be provided to all first-year students attending the bachelor of science in nursing program in the fall 2023 academic year.

“We haven’t really done anything like this before,” said Yvonne Koerner, executive director of the Coast Mountain Foundation.

“We have a new hospital coming, so they’re going to need lots of new staff.”

More programs are also available locally to help attract health care workers. The college is working in collaboration with Norther Health on the Health Career Access Program (HCAP), so that students can access paid education and training to become registered health care assistants.

In return they agree to work for one year in the facility that sponsored their involvement after completing the program.

These incentives may help to address the growing issues Canadians face in accessing medical care, a problem which has hit northern B.C. communities especially hard.

“The pandemic was really hard on the nursing profession. The months of stress and exhaustion experienced by nurses have certainly affected the views of people wanting to go into the profession. Yet, healthcare remains critical in all the communities we serve,” says Dr. Titi Kunkel, vice president of academic, students and international.

“This foundation award is great news. We hope to help people train here and remain in our communities doing this important work.”

The entrance awards join existing financial aid programs at the college, such as the on-campus housing program, which costs only $600 per month.

“We opened the new housing in October last year, so it’s very new,” said Heather Bastin, the college’s executive director of external relations. “Free parking, free laundry, all of the amenities that you would get here, you would not necessarily get in a larger city.”

Despite the bachelor in nursing degree’s popularity, Koerner said nursing programs across the province are struggling to fill seats as people opt to work in the hot employment market or pursue other vocations.

“This past fall we saw a decline in the enrolment of new nursing students joining the college, so we felt the need to encourage students entering nursing. These entrance awards are a tangible way we can support this program.”