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B.C. government funding 602 new student nursing spots

British Columbia is funding more than 600 new nursing spaces in post-secondary institutions as it looks to address persistent staffing shortages. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP)

The B.C. government says it is funding more than 600 new student nursing spots at public post-secondary institutions, in its latest pre-budget spending announcement.

The province says it is putting up $5 million in 2021-2022, with UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses and Thompson Rivers University already accepting more students last year.

Read more: Push made for use of physician assistants in B.C. amid doctor shortage

Seventeen schools in total will begin expanding intake in the next year-and-a-half, according to the Ministry of Health.

B.C. Nurses’ Union president Aman Grewal called the move a good “first step” in dealing with staffing shortages in the sector.

“The nursing shortage has been increasing through retirement, as well as our nurses are burning out, their workload has increased significantly and the acuity of the patients has increased significantly,” she said.

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Grewal said the union also wants to see action from the province on retention of existing nurses, and smoothing out the accreditation process for foreign-trained nurses.

The new nursing seats will include 362 registered nursing seats, 40 registered psychiatric nursing seats, 20 nurse practitioner seats and 180 licensed practical nurse seats.

Read more: Canada headed for nursing shortage ‘beyond anything we’ve ever experienced’: experts

The ministry also announced another $475,000 in funding to support graduate nurse education at UBC, UVic and UNBC to provide for ” the development of faculty and nurse leaders.”

The new seats will supplement the estimated 2,000 existing nursing spaces in B.C. public post-secondary institutions.

In a survey last month, 76 per cent of union members said their workloads have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began.The survey found 51 per cent of those working in emergency departments and intensive care units said the pandemic has made themmore likely to leave the profession in the next two years.

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Since 2017-2018, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the number of licensed practical nurses in B.C. has risen 12 per cent and registered nurses are up six percent.But while the overall number of nurses has increased in recent years, so has demand. Retirements, combined with an aging populationthat will need more care, are creating new pressures on the system alongside the pandemic, he said.

The province is set to unveil its 2022 budget on Tuesday.

— with files from the Canadian Press

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