Nfld. & Labrador

CNA — with recently unveiled accountability, financial issues — called upon to expand nursing program

On the waiting list — again. Now a 19-year-old-woman from Labrador wants to be able to pursue a nursing education closer to home.

'I want to do nursing, I've always wanted to do nursing … ever since I was a little girl'

McKenna Head wants the Practical Nursing program at the College of the North Atlantic to be offered at the Lab City campus. (McKenna Head/Submitted)

A 19-year-old Labrador woman has launched a petition amid concerns she won't get to realize a lifelong dream of working as a nurse, unless the College of the North Atlantic expands its practical nursing program. 

"They're always crying out for nurses, but to keep getting placed on a wait list when you go to do the program — do something about it," says McKenna Head, who lives in Labrador City.

After landing on the waiting list twice — once for the Corner Brook campus and once for Happy Valley-Goose Bay — Head wants the college to offer the program at the CNA campus in Labrador City.

"It's pretty frustrating. I just gotta sit around and wait and see what happens, and I can't go ahead and do anything because I might get a call to go to school and I might not," Head told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning

McKenna Head says she has wanted to be a nurse since she was a child because 'she loves talking to people and helping them out.' (Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty)

'Always wanted to be a nurse'

Head said she's known since childhood she has wanted to be a nurse. 

"I love talking to people and helping them out any way I can, just caring for them when they can't care for themselves," she said.

Head acknowledged she could try to pursue education outside Newfoundland and Labrador, but she says there are long-term drawbacks with that option. 

It's unclear at this time if the practical nursing program for the Happy Valley-Goose Bay campus slated for the fall will go ahead as it's 'pending approval' by the College of Licensed Practical Nurses Newfoundland & Labrador. (CBC)

"I won't [necessarily] get work back home. If I was to go to school in N.L., I could come back to Lab City and do my work term and probably get hired on … That'd be a big bonus," she said.

Eastern Heath, CNA respond

In a statement, Eastern Health said individual CNA sites have to submit a proposal to the College of Licensed Practical Nurses Newfoundland & Labrador as one of the first steps for any possible expansion. Then there are consultations with multiple groups, including regional health authorities. 

Further to that, there's another wrench in the practical nursing program that is slated for September at the CNA campus in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Currently, "all applicants who applied … are placed on a wait list, pending approval to proceed with the program by the CLPNNL," Eastern Health said in its statement.

Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne speaks at the College of the North Atlantic Stephenville campus on Friday. (CNA/Twitter)

Paul Fisher, executive director-registrar of the CLPNNL, told CBC News a decision about the program in Happy Valley-Goose Bay would likely be made by June 1.

He said "finding qualified faculty" to teach the program is crucial and can be a significant issue — just as it could be in establishing a practical nursing program in Labrador City.

Fisher said Labrador-Grenfell Health would have to determine if there is "a human resources need" to justify expanding the program to another site. 

As for CNA, a report released Friday detailed lapses in several areas, including the institution's finances. 

Ultimately, Head said she hopes her petition, which had garnered 314 signatures as of Friday afternoon, leads to an expansion to the CNA campus in her hometown.

"I'm a little worried. Like, I want to do nursing, I've always wanted to do nursing … ever since I was a little girl."

With files from Labrador Morning and Bailey White