Nunavut cabinet says yes to new nursing program

Nunavut Health Minister Ed Picco has found $2.5 million to run a four-year nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

MICHAELA RODRIGUE
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Nunavut will have home-grown nurses within the next four years.

The government of Nunavut has found $2.5 million to pay for a new four-year bachelor of science in nursing program at Nunavut Arctic College.

The program is expected to begin this fall at Iqaluit’s Nunatta campus and has room for up to 15 students.

“One of the things I’m trying to do is fundamentally change the way we deliver health care services, and one of those fundamental changes is to have more local people actually working in the health care professional field,” said Health Minister Ed Picco.

During a caucus retreat at Baker Lake, Nunavut’s MLAs agreed to dip into the government’s $10-million reserve fund to begin the program.

Picco said the bachelor’s program, plus the access program, will cost the government about $600,000 per year.

Agreement with Dalhousie

The four-year bachelor degree will be run using teachers and curriculum from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After completing two and a half years in the program, students will receive a nursing diploma that will allow them to work in Nunavut’s hospitals, Picco said.

After four years of schooling, graduates will be qualified to receive certification in any Canadian province.

The nursing program is the first of its kind in Nunavut and should bring locally-educated nurses to the territory’s communities.

“It’s a benefit for us to have people who can speak the language delivering health-care services. There’s so many pluses to this,” Picco said.

It’s also hoped the program will help relieve Nunavut’s nursing shortage and reduce recruiting costs.

About 35 per cent of Nunavut’s nursing positions now sit empty and Arviat has Nunavut’s only Inuk nurse. That’s “unacceptable,” Picco said.

The government wants to recruit nurses to fill the positions. But without locally-educated talent, Nunavut’s nursing shortage will likely continue, Picco said.

“We’re competing against all these other jurisdictions and one of the ways is to develop a capacity pool within Nunavut itself,” Picco said.

Previous program cancelled

Just one year ago Nunavut Arctic College announced it had to shelve plans for the program when it couldn’t find the necessary money.

Students from the college’s health career access program planned to go onto a local bachelors program but were told it would not be available.

Angry students held a protest march around Iqaluit’s ring road.

Nunavut Arctic College and Dalhousie University are now preparing to launch the program this fall. Arctic College is now taking applications for it.

Students who have completed the Health Career Access program will be given first entry into the program, Picco said. Nunavut land claim beneficiaries who meet the course requirements will also be given preferential treatment.

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