Humber College and the College of Nurses of Ontario are revolutionizing nursing education in the province.
The Ontario government applauded Humber in a March 16 news release for being one of the first publicly-assisted colleges in the province to offer a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BNSc) degree, giving more flexibility to prospective nursing students.
Premier Doug Ford said the pandemic has reminded people of how invaluable frontline nurses are and highlighted Humber’s trailblazing move in the statement.
“We need more healthcare heroes, which is why it is so important for colleges like Humber to lead the way by offering our students more choice, while maintaining excellence in nursing education,” Ford said.
The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) states in order to become a nurse in Ontario, individuals must obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Usually, this would mean a university undergraduate degree, but the CNO recently changed prerequisites.
A December 2020 amendment to the province’s Nursing Act by the CNO now allows the body to approve college-conferred nursing degrees to meet one of the requirements for registration as a Registered Nurse (RN).
For the past 20 years, Humber offered a Bachelor of Nursing program in collaboration with the University of New Brunswick. However, the March 4 announcement marked official approval for the college to provide an independent nursing degree program.
According to Humber’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness, the novel degree program will focus on the nurses’ role in community and public health, primary healthcare, long-term care and acute settings.
Aya Franco, a fourth-year nursing student at Queen’s University, said the move by Humber will let many more high school students pursue their nursing dreams and allow them to experience an extremely rewarding career.
“Being able to help individuals and families manage in their most vulnerable states, and knowing that my hard work, compassion and dedication makes a difference is the most rewarding part of nursing,” Franco said.
OPSEU, the union representing 170,000 members across Ontario in government, colleges, and healthcare, also commended Humber on its milestone achievement in a March 19 press release.
“This is great news and it’s proof-positive that our public colleges can play a vital role in filling the gaps in public services that have been laid bare during the pandemic,” OPSEU President Warren Thomas said.
Humber will admit its first cohort of nursing degree students this fall. About 70 will be accepted for the second-entry program, reserved for university-level applicants with sufficient transfer credits, and 180 spots will be for direct-entry students from high school.
The first cohort’s second-entry students and direct-entry students are expected to graduate in 2023 and 2025, respectively.
Shalini Desai, a dialysis nurse at Humber River Hospital, says the CNO’s regulation change will encourage more talent to the front lines.
“We need more nurses and we need them now,” Desai said. “This is a terrific opportunity from Humber and hopefully, more colleges will follow suit.”
However, given the current COVID-19 restrictions for in-class learning, the instructional model may change course delivery.
Franco was in her third year when the pandemic hit, and said the abrupt changes were stressful for her classmates.
“Tensions were high due to concerns about whether or not we would be held back a year because of unfinished clinical hours for placements,” she said. “Fortunately, incomplete clinical hours turned into online assignments and in-person theory classes were switched to online classes.
“Throughout this experience of remote learning and COVID-19, it was more challenging to focus on the material presented,” Franco said.
Humber’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellness says the school is the only Ontario college with access to an on-campus cadaver lab for its students, adding to its “competitive edge”.
Candidates will also have the opportunity to complete a work placement with clinical practice experience at healthcare agencies across the Greater Toronto Area, which Franco says can be eye-opening.
“Through my placements, I quickly realized that my care, my voice, my touch, and my time with a patient can really make a difference,” Franco said. “I have seen the joy when a family first holds their baby and have also seen families say goodbye to their loved ones.
“I have seen both happy and heartbreaking times and have been there to celebrate and console,” she said.