Recently, opportunities have risen for nursing students in Ontario through the increase of available positions as well as the introduction of a degree at the college level. Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, shares with the province that 2,000 new nursing opportunities within universities and colleges across Ontario will be available this year.
In total, there are already about 4,000 students provincially enrolled in their first year of nursing programs, and approximately 3,800 in practical nursing. This opportunity will provide new funding and opportunities to create a new pathway for education in nursing.
In addition, St. Lawrence College is one of many colleges that will now offer stand-alone four-year degrees for prospective nursing students. These students can receive a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at the college level. A huge achievement for the nursing community, this change will reduce barriers, and provide new opportunities to access higher education at different levels.
The $35-million-dollar investment will increase enrollment in nursing education, and will present 1,130 new practical nurses and 870 registered nurses into the Canadian healthcare system. This funding will expand clinical education for nursing students in long-term care placements.
Universities like Western and Queens have increased the number of spots in their nursing programs following this announcement. U of T has yet to provide any more information.
“Ontario’s nurses go above and beyond to provide exceptional care to patients, and we are grateful for their continued efforts throughout the pandemic. This investment will support and strengthen our nursing workforce and ensure patients can continue to receive high-quality care across our health system, including long-term care, home and community care, and acute care,” says Deputy Minister of Health Christine Elliot for Ontario Newsroom.
However, this milestone does not come without its criticism from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO). Various critics argue that the need in Ontario for nurses to fill the gaps is about 20,000 new nurses rather than 2,000.
Currently, there is a low registered nurse-to-population ratio in Canada, which ultimately puts a major strain on the healthcare system, and the populations it serves. The strain placed on the healthcare system by Covid-19 over this past year has disproportionately affected healthcare workers like nurses, who have been on the frontlines.
According to a winter 2021 “Work and Well-being survey” put forth by the RNAO, 73.2 per cent of participating nurses found that their respective institutions were at over-capacity on a regular basis, and 63.2 per cent experienced some symptoms of burnout.
Given the health risks for nurses and frontline healthcare workers associated with overcapacity and understaffing, the province has been working with Mental Health and Addictions Center of Excellence at Ontario Health to develop daily support services that are accessible to frontline healthcare workers.
Overall, the Province of Ontario is heading in the right direction, and will continue to work on improving the future of the nursing community through opportunities for prospective and current students.