New Brunswick

More funding for UNB nursing as health minister promises jobs for 'every single practitioner'

The province has announced more funding for the University of New Brunswick nursing program, just a few weeks after it unveiled a plan to boost the number of nursing graduates in New Brunswick per year.

Master of nursing-nurse practitioner program to double available seats in 2023

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said New Brunswick has jobs for every single nurse practitioner following an announcement on Thursday regarding more funding for the University of New Brunswick's nursing program. (CBC)

The province has announced more funding for the University of New Brunswick nursing program, just a few weeks after it unveiled a plan to boost the number of nursing graduates in New Brunswick per year.

The government is putting up $1.48 million over the next two years to support doubling the seats in UNB's master of nursing-nurse practitioner program to 20 from 10, starting in the fall of 2023. 

The money is also going toward specialized mental health training beginning in September of this year.

"UNB is developing a curriculum of specialized theory and clinical courses that will allow 21 students to specialize in mental health each year, better preparing them to respond to mental health issues," the Department of Health and the Department of Post-secondary Education, Training and Labour said in a statement.

More nursing seats announced in March

The Higgs government announced last month that it would fund an additional 85 nursing seats in the UNB and Université de Moncton nursing programs over the next decade.

Giving UNB nursing students the option to specialize in mental health is part of the province's nursing strategy, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Minister Trevor Holder said.

Trevor Holder, New Brunswick's minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, said a downward trend in enrolment at UNB and Université de Moncton nursing programs has reversed 'significantly.' (CBC)

Speaking at the UNB Fredericton campus on Thursday, Holder said a downward trend in the four-year nursing programs at UNB and the Université de Moncton has reversed.

However, it's not just a matter of funding more seats.

UNB president Paul Mazerolle told CBC News in March that nursing students can be lured away to other provinces, and retention is something New Brunswick health authorities will have to consider.

'We have jobs for you'

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said recently the vacancy rate for nurses in the Horizon Health Network is 16 per cent, while the rate for Vitalité is 12 per cent.

At Thursday's announcement, she asked nursing students to consider New Brunswick when planning their future.

"We have jobs for you," Shephard said.

She echoed that statement while speaking to reporters later, saying these announcements, though without immediate impact, are still necessary.

"We can't not do them. We have to know, and give nurses an opportunity to know, it's going to get better, and that's what these announcements are about."

The big message she said she wants to convey is that nurse practitioners are "extremely valuable" to New Brunswick's primary care network.

"We have jobs for every single one of them."

With files from Shane Magee and Shane Fowler

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