N.B. nursing students offered financial incentives to study in Maine
Province and Beal University reach deal to see up to 100 New Brunswickers enter 3-year program
The provincial government hopes a new partnership with Beal University in Bangor, Maine, will see more New Brunswickers trained to become registered nurses sooner and hired to alleviate a critical shortage at home.
Beal has opened up 100 nursing seats specifically for New Brunswick students starting in January, Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Trevor Holder announced on Monday.
The private, for-profit university offers an accelerated 32 months of training instead of the four years currently required for the bachelor of nursing programs offered at the publicly-funded University of New Brunswick and University of Moncton.
The first year of the Beal program is completed online, while the second and third years are a combination of online and in-person classes, and clinical placements will be completed in New Brunswick's health-care system.
The training — an 18-month nursing associate's degree and 14-month bachelor of science in nursing — costs more than $57,000 US, or nearly $79,000 Cdn.
But Beal will offer tuition to New Brunswick students at $42,000 Cdn — a discount of $36,735 Cdn, according to chief operating officer Steve Villett.
It can afford to do that because it will save money with the clinical placements being in New Brunswick, said president Sheryl DeWalt.
The government will also provide students with a $6,000 "incentive grant" to help offset some of the costs associated with studying out of country, such as travel and living expenses, said Holder.
The funding is being offered through a "labour market" budget, available to deal with labour market challenges, he said. "This is clearly one that we have right now in New Brunswick."
As a condition of the grant, students must sign a return-of-service agreement to work as a registered nurse in New Brunswick for at least one year after graduation, said Holder.
"This will significantly increase the educational capacity for New Brunswick nursing students and [potentially] result in even more nurses entering our system in the next few years," he said.
It's a significant opportunity for us that we have to take advantage of.- Trevor Holder, post-secondary education, training and labour minister
Horizon and Vitalité have faced ongoing emergency department and other service interruptions due to a shortage of nurses and other health-care workers.
Hundreds of nursing home beds also sit vacant because of staff shortages.
Horizon is offering up to $2,000 to members of the public who help recruit a registered nurse.
Health Minister Bruce Fitch called the announcement "great news for all New Brunswickers."
It will help connect would-be nurses with training and help alleviate some of the pressures in the health-care system, he said.
Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of Horizon, described partnerships, such as the one with Beal, as "an important step forward."
"To the nurses in this program, we want you to know that Horizon will be here to support you through your placements and to provide a welcoming and supportive first rate work experience when you have completed your program," she said.
Horizon has set a target of hiring 708 registered nurses in 2022-23, and has achieved 42 per cent of that, as of last week, Melanson said.
Beal graduates will have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination, which is used for nurses in both Canada and the U.S. Its nursing students have a pass rate of over 88 per cent on the licensure exams, according to the president.
"To come to New Brunswick they will have to meet the same regulatory approval with the nurses association here in New Brunswick, said Holder, noting some of the grant money can be put toward having their credentials recognized in the province.
Local capacity unclear
Asked whether the New Brunswick universities didn't have the capacity to train these nurses, Holder didn't answer directly.
"At the end of the day, what we do know is that we … did not have the capacity in New Brunswick in January to move as quickly as we are right now," he said. There is a wait list of "around 50" at UNB, he said, despite increased enrolment.
Holder also noted Beal University is offering the incentives to attract students — the money is not coming from taxpayers.
"So it's a significant opportunity for us that we have to take advantage of."
"There's not one thing that's going to fix this. We need all hands on deck," he added.
As to why the province isn't offering $6,000 to nursing students who choose to study in New Brunswick, Holder said there's "lots of assistance" for local students.
No one from the University of New Brunswick is available to comment, said spokesperson Health Campbell.
The University of Moncton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In March, the province signed a 10-year funding agreement with the two universities, hoping to boost enrolment by funding an additional 85 nursing seats a year.
The agreement will reward UNB for graduating nurses, providing it with $35,000 for each new graduate above a baseline of 155, up to 206 per year.
The baseline for University of Moncton is 126 and up to 160 graduates per year.
The program could see UNB receive upwards of $1.78 million a year in funding, and University of Moncton could see $1.19 million a year.
Retention rates higher among locally trained
Earlier this month, Holder said having local medical seats is better because the students are more likely to stay in New Brunswick to work.
"Retention rates for physicians trained within New Brunswick have been much better than for those studying outside the province," he had said when the government moved 10 medical seats from Memorial University in Newfoundland to the Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick program.
Roughly 40 per cent of New Brunswick medical students trained outside the province return to New Brunswick to work, Holder had said, while 60 per cent of those trained here will stay.
On Monday, Holder acknowledged the same holds true for nurses.
"Ideally, we'd love to train more nurses here in New Brunswick," he said. "We're taking some additional steps in that direction to do that in the very near future," he said, telling reporters to "stay tuned" for an announcement.
"But at this point, we have an opportunity to get students enrolled in a program this January, and we have to take it."
Students interested in the Beal program will have to take a four-hour entrance exam. The details of where and when the exam will be offered in New Brunswick are still being worked out, according to the president.
Roughly 60 per cent of applicants pass the entrance exam, but no one with the minimum score has ever been accepted, said DeWalt. Although the 100 seats are allocated specifically for New Brunswick students, they will still need to meet the admissions standards, she stressed. Enrolment is offered six times a year.
The deal with Beal has no end date, said Holder. He expects it to continue for the "foreseeable future."
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