Northern Lights College hosted an open house Tuesday night at the Fort St. John campus, highlighting how its partnership with UNBC is creating a new template for anyone looking to start a nursing career.

Dr. Caroline Sanders, UNBC’s chair for nursing, says Northeast B.C. is a hidden gem when it comes to unique opportunities, and the success of the new Northern Baccalaureate Nursing Program is owed in part by the community’s persistence to be better when it comes to healthcare.

“It’s a real journey to have got here. I inherited the narrative for the Northeast, it’s the fact that it actually took the ministry 15 years of work to even get to this time,” said Sanders. “This has been a long time in the making and there’s been some real pioneers behind that work.”

Sanders says the lack of nurses in Northern B.C. is an issue being felt across Canada, with the COVID-19 pandemic having exposed many of the cracks and flaws of the nation’s healthcare system — nurses are needed everywhere.  

“There are challenges in recruiting nurses for the north, as well as any other healthcare professional, but this is the first step in our journey together, and I hope that people will come and enjoy the program,” said Sanders, noting nursing is option for young adults seeking their first career, and even those looking for a new career.

“Nursing is a space that you can come to as your second career in life, for anyone who may be interested out there. We all are working a little longer in our lives, so to step into nursing is a wonderful space to allow to try so many different things,” she said.  

Sanders was accompanied by Dr. Raelene Marceau, who oversees the program at the college. Marceau brings years of experience as a nurse in Alberta and said the program is hitting a lot of firsts.

She’s excited for the students, who are just reaching the halfway mark of the 18-month program, and graduating in 2023.  

“There’s been lots of learning for all of us, not only for students, but for faculty, for myself, and for UNBC, because this was a new program that we were initiating during COVID too, and just the unpredictability of that was challenging,” said Marceau.    

Marceau also spoke as panelist on healthcare at the North Central Government Association’s convention last week, and says municipalities expressed a strong interest in the program for their own communities.  

“The need for nursing isn’t going to go away. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, if we don’t have nurses, we don’t have a healthcare system, it’s that plain and simple,” she said. “So, in an area like the Northeast, if we don’t have nurses, we don’t have quality healthcare.”

Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News

Tom Summer is a Peace Region journalist and has been covering the courts and more in the pages of the Alaska Highway News and Dawson Creek Mirror since 2016. Born and raised in Hudson's Hope, he's also one of the first reporters to take part in the Local Journalism Initiative, delivering news to communities in Northeast BC. Funding is available to eligible Canadian media organizations to hire journalists or pay freelance journalists to produce civic journalism for The content produced...