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Calgary program expands to train more foreign nurses as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Calgary university trains more nurses during COVID-19 pandemic
More frontline help is on the way in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Gil Tucker has more on a Calgary program that’s training nurses from around the world to take care of patients in Alberta.

Mount Royal University is expanding one of its programs to train more international nurses as applications continue to grow.

Bridge to Canadian Nursing has been a staple program at the university since 2006. Each year it accepts 80 foreign applicants to help them obtain the qualifications needed to meet Canadian nursing standards.

But now, due to an increase in applications, the program is expanding its reach to accept an additional 40 nurses, which could help the public health response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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“In the last couple of years our demand for the program has doubled,” program coordinator Robyn Stewart said in an interview with 770 CHQR.

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“It’s coincidentally coinciding with our current circumstances in Alberta and responding to COVID[-19],” she added. “The nurses that are working right now on the front-line, as we’re coming into summer, they want their vacation and they want relief.

“To get people out into the workforce to provide that relief and to care for Alberta patients and families is crucial.”

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The 10- to 14-month-long program helps international nurses from all corners of the globe obtain a Canadian licence and registration to begin practising in Alberta.

The program consists of 10 courses and ends with a six-week practicum in an acute hospital setting.

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Prior to the program’s expansion, Stewart noted that applicants often faced a two- to three-year wait.

John Dominic is one of those applicants. After a three-year wait, Dominic is currently enrolled in the program and is working as a licensed practical nurse at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.

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“I did my nursing in India, and I worked there as a registered nurse for four years,” he said.

“Then when you come to Canada and you’re not able to do that, it’s kind of a bummer, but Mount Royal helps you to get through that.”

Dominic said the program has helped him continue his dream in Canada.

“I’ve had a lot of help from Canada and Canadians in general, so being able to give back to the country and help at this time, I’m so grateful.”

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The expansion of the program is not only good for applicants, but also for existing nurses in the province.

Cam Westhead with the United Nurses of Alberta, noted that more trained nurses are needed in the province. He said he’s happy to see Mount Royal expanding this program to grow Alberta’s qualified staff in the years to come.

“By 2028, we’ll be short about 2,800 nurses,” Westhead said.

“Nurses are working short-staffed and a lot of overtime, the solution to that is more nurses, so we welcome the news coming out of Mount Royal.”

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