New Brunswick

University in Wales looks to fill nursing school spots with more Canadians

It might be a crisis in New Brunswick, but a university in Wales sees the province’s nursing shortage as an opportunity.

Bangor University has opened its 3-year bachelor of nursing program to Canadian applicants for the 1st time

A university in Wales is trying to tap into a shortage of spaces in nursing programs in New Brunswick to boost its enrolment. (CBC)

It might be a crisis in New Brunswick, but a university in Wales sees the province's nursing shortage as an opportunity. 

For the first time, Bangor University has opened its three-year bachelor of nursing program to Canadian applicants this year. 

The decision was made after university officials heard about New Brunswick's nursing shortage and funding cuts to university nursing programs.

"We are hoping to be very successful in recruiting students to come over to Wales to study nursing," said Elizabeth Mason, health sciences recruitment and selection director for the university.

The Nursing Association of New Brunswick has said it is expecting a shortage of 5,000 nurses in the next five years. This year, a number of hospital units across the province have closed down because there haven't been enough nursing staff on hand. 

Like New Brunswick, the United Kingdom also has a nursing shortage.

In England, Mason said there's been a 25 per cent drop in nursing applications in the past two years.

"It's a good thing for us as well because it obviously spreads the word about the quality of our education," she said in an interview with Information Morning Moncton. 

The university said recruitment is already underway for more Canadian students. While the university is looking for applicants with good grades, it is also looking for applicants who can use emotional intelligence such as empathy to deliver person-centred care.

"It's not just about intelligence," Mason said. "It's about taking a broad look at the individual to see if they have the qualities and values, which we believe are absolutely essential for nursing." 

Elizabeth Mason is the director of recruitment and selection for the School of Health Sciences at Bangor University and Sian Davies is the course lead adult nursing at the School of Health Sciences. They're aiming to attract New Brunswickers to their nursing programs. 8:19

Students interested in travelling overseas 

Tuition for New Brunswick students would cost the equivalent of just over $26,000 Cdn a year. According to the University of New Brunswick's website, nursing students will pay just over $8,400 for tuition in the fall of 2019. 

"There's definite interest out there," Mason said. "I think it's like anything that's new, there needs to be a lot of marketing and we need to explain things and it's going to be a gradual process."

Sian Davies, adult nursing course lead for the university, said any graduates who want to return to Canada would face the same certification process as graduates of Canadian programs.

"They will be required to do the exam for the particular area they're in, as any nurse finishing a program of study in Canada already does," Davies said. 

And once they graduate, students aren't required to stay and practise in Wales. But Mason said she's hopeful some graduates will want to stay.

"I think it will be different for different people," Mason said. 

"Some people are maybe going to want to come and stay here and work in Wales for a period of time. Other people may want to take their qualifications back to Canada."

Cuts to nursing programs

In April, New Brunswick's provincial government announced it will be cutting $8.7 million from funding for nursing programs.

Trevor Holder, the minister responsible for post-secondary eduction, has defended the cut by saying the programs weren't creating new seats for students.

The province has said two nursing-seat purchase agreements were signed with University of New Brunswick and the University of Moncton in 2005-2006.

The agreements, which expired March 31, were to fund 95 additional nursing seats a year — 57 at UNB and 38 at Moncton.

Minister promises action

At the end of June, Holder said the province and others are in the final stages of work on a nursing strategy, "which includes action items."

The department would not make anyone available for an interview about the Welsh university's recruiting effort, but it issued a statement from Holder reiterating his plans for the nursing strategy.

The statement also referred to plans to reintroduce a bachelor of nursing program for licensed practical nurses who want to become registered nurses.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip? elizabeth.fraser@cbc.ca

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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