The Ontario government’s decision – announced on February 11 – to give colleges the option to deliver stand-alone nursing degree programs will produce more qualified nurses to fill key shortages in many communities.
Since 2000, the province has required any college wishing to offer a Nursing degree program to partner with a university – because the province wanted its nurses to have the additional education associated with a university-level Bachelor of Science degree. This has created unnecessary costs and other bureaucratic hurdles that often discourage students from going into nursing.
For example, it can often mean students enrolled in a college program have to relocate to a different community to complete their studies at university. (In St. Clair’s case, the college was “clustered” with Sarnia’s Lambton College and the University of Windsor.)
The previous policy was maintained despite the fact a number of colleges have the capacity to deliver the full program on their own.
INTENTION IS STAND-ALONE AT CHATHAM CAMPUS
“This is terrific news for students and health-care professionals in our area,” said St. Clair College President Patti France. “It makes nursing more attractive to students who wish to study and pursue their careers in our community.
“The collaborative arrangement between St. Clair and the University of Windsor has been relatively seamless for Windsor-based students, and several elements of that partnership may be maintained,” she noted.
“It has, however, proved somewhat burdensome for the Nursing students based at our Chatham campus. The province’s decision now means that we can deliver the entire four years of the program in that community, and it is our intention to do just that on behalf of our students based in Chatham-Kent.”
“Any policy that creates greater accessibility, convenience and affordability for our students is to be commended, and this decision on the ministry’s part does just that,” France added. “We also believe it will help to achieve the government’s ultimate goal: namely, to train more nurses for the health-care system which is calling out for them.
“This announcement is a tribute to the strength of our college programs,” France said. “We are grateful for this opportunity to ensure more graduates enter the profession with the qualifications and the expertise to improve health-care delivery in our community.”
“I am thrilled that the government has announced the ability for Ontario’s colleges to offer stand-alone Nursing degrees: a change my association has supported from the beginning,” said Dianne Martin, CEO of WeRPN. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the rural nursing program I was able to take at my local institution, Georgian College. (The policy change) is especially exciting for all of the young people who will now have the opportunity to both study Nursing and practice their nursing career in their local community.”
A number of colleges already deliver at least 90 percent of the current curriculum, and some colleges currently deliver 100 percent of the curriculum.
Providing students with the option to complete their Nursing degree program in one community reduces the costs for students and government, and makes Nursing programs more attractive to many students.
It will also create a more diverse nursing workforce that can respond more effectively to patients. The student population at colleges mirrors the general population, and college is often the preferred postsecondary destination for first-generation students and many Indigenous students.
Some college-university partnerships are working well for students and will continue. In other cases, it makes more sense for colleges to offer the four-year degree program independent of any university.
“Ontario’s colleges currently deliver many excellent degree programs in a number of specialized areas,” College Ontario President Linda Franklin said. “Expanding the range of degree programs at colleges to include stand-alone nursing degrees highlights the government’s commitment to students and their long-term success.”