FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks, who was in Fort St. John yesterday to meet with some of the university’s alumni and attend a board meeting, says that he’s optimistic about the provincial government approving the university’s proposal to start a nursing school in Fort St. John.
Dr. Weeks, who is beginning his second as the university’s president, said that UNBC’s Nursing Program currently offers courses at its main campus in Prince George, as well as online, and at satellite campuses in Quesnel and Terrace.
He said that the university has partnered with Northern Lights College and local governments in Northeast B.C. on a proposal to offer Nursing Program courses at its Fort St. John campus, which is located at the college.
Talks on setting up the nursing school began back in February, just weeks before Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a report which said that Northern Health was not doing enough to recruit and retain registered nurses in the northeast part of the province. As part of her recommendations, Bellringer said that establishing a nursing school in Northeast B.C. would help to better recruit and retain nurses in this part of the province.
In July, Peace River Regional District Chair Brad Sperling said that the PRRD was waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Advanced Education about the proposal.
Dr. Weeks said that the Ministry has reviewed the nursing school proposal over the summer, sending it back to get some questions and clarifications about the pathway’s students would take through the program, as well as assurances about UNBC’s partnership with NLC.
“We’ve done all that, it’s in front of them right now and we’re, like everyone else, just waiting to hear. But we’re cautiously optimistic and pretty encouraged about it. I have several meetings with the Ministry this fall, and we anticipate that we’ll make some progress on that.”
Dr. Weeks explained that 50 percent of the program’s spaces will be set aside for NLC students, which he says will enable the programs already in place to increase the pathways that students in Northeast B.C. have.
He said that if everything goes according to plan, the nursing school would, at the earliest, begin admitting its first students 18 months from now.
When asked about further expanding UNBC’s medical school into Northeast B.C. after the nursing school is established, Dr. Weeks said that while those talks had not yet happened the medical program at the Prince George campus is looking at ways to be better connected with communities in Northern B.C.
He added that in the meantime, UNBC has also begun expanding physiotherapy programs in Northern B.C. due to the current shortage of physiotherapists in this half of the province.