Nova Scotia is expanding the number of seats for nursing education at universities across the province.
The provincial government is funding 200 new spaces, with an initial cost of $3.2 million — a price that’s set to more than double annually once seats are filled.
“There has always been strong interest in the nursing profession and our nursing programs,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle on Tuesday. “Now there will be more capacity to educate and train the nurses we need in communities across the province.”
The news comes as the health system faces staff shortages across the board, especially in nursing.
Last month, the nurses’ union told Global News it estimates vacancy rates are at a 30-year high, with Nova Scotia Health being short nearly 2,000 nurses provincewide.
Last fall, Premier Tim Houston announced that every Nova Scotia-trained nurse would be getting a job offer. So far in 2022, more than 350 nurses have said “yes.”
But, as Global News reported in June, even if Nova Scotia hired every locally-trained nursing graduate, it wouldn’t be enough to resolve the shortage.
Tuesday’s announcement of increased educational opportunities aims to ease the burden in the coming years.
In addition to 200 nursing seats, the province is also adding 80 seats in bachelor of science for nursing, including 26 seats at Dalhousie University, 26 at St. Francis Xavier University and 28 at Cape Breton University.
Though some seats will be ready by May 2023, Dalhousie University president Deep Saini said the university will welcome additional students this fall.
“Nurses and nurse practitioners are critical to the health of our communities and the healthcare sector,” Saini said in the release.
“We are honoured to welcome additional nursing and nurse practitioner students to Dalhousie this fall and look forward to continued collaboration with the provincial government to support the healthcare needs of Nova Scotians.”
According to the release, Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) will also be adding 120 practical nursing spaces.
Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union said adding more seats is encouraging.
“Many young students are eager to be nurses but are waitlisted at various schools,” said union president Janet Hazelton in the release.
“However, we must take an immediate multi-pronged approach to resolve the nursing shortage, including a national health human resources strategy and incentives to ensure our more experienced nurses stick around to mentor new grads,” she said.
“We must work together to prevent further erosion of our health-care system and a worsening nursing crisis.”
Once filled, the new seats will result in about 530 registered nurses and 370 practical nurses graduating every year in the province.