Some nursing graduates to stay in Fort St. John

Fort St. John’s nursing program will celebrate the graduation of its first intake in April, and a few students will be staying in Fort St. John to work.

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A lab set up for students in the Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program with a dummy in a bed and a whiteboard in the background.
Lab and dummy for the Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program students. (Shailynn Foster,

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John’s nursing program will celebrate the graduation of its first intake in April, following which a few students will be staying in the city to work.

In Fort St. John, there are 67 registered nurse vacancies, and 129 in the northeast, according to Northern Health’s website. Fort St. John is also looking for a nurse practitioner.

Dr. Raelene Marceau, a coordinator for the University of Northern British Columbia’s Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program, said the program had been in the works for 10 to 15 years.

“The fact that it finally came to fruition, I think, is probably meaningful because the community, stakeholders and partners, they were hugely involved in getting the program here,” Marceau said.

“The second thing is we’re in such a nursing shortage in crisis; having a program like this is unique in the north.”

The UNBC held an open house for prospective nursing students in Fort St. John Wednesday evening.

The event included guest speakers, such as the dean of the UNBC, Northern Health’s recruitment & retention ambassador for the northeast, Byron Stewart, and Dr. Marceau.

The program was designed for those who live in the north and want to stay in the north after they graduate.

“RNs are going to be funnelled right into the nursing workforce here in Fort St. John,” said Marceau.

“We’re hoping that we can pull from local individuals who want to do their education here and then go back into the workforce.”

The program essentially starts students in year three or four of a typical nursing program, as the prerequisites include a list of university-level courses.

Marceau said it’s an immersive baccalaureate nursing program that lasts 18 months or five semesters.

Getting into the program requires several prerequisites, including 60 university credits.

“A lot of our students are more mature, and some of them have degrees already, and then have decided, ‘you know what? We want to go into nursing,’” Marceau said.

Once the program is completed, students are eligible to write the NCLEX-RN, qualifying them to work as registered nurses.

Rebecca Landry, a student in her second semester of the program, treated a group of open house attendees to a tour of the student lounge and the lab the students do most of their practical work in.

A picture of the lab Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program students use during their studies. It includes a bed, medical machines and an anatomical figure in the background.
Lab for the Northern Baccalaureate Nursing program students. (Shailynn Foster,

Landry explained how there are 16 seats available in Fort St. John, but only 11 seats are filled in the class.

“There is a huge nursing shortage across Canada, but specifically really in the north, we’re really, really short,” Landry said.

“We really want nurses to stay here, and there are really good incentives for people to stay here as well.”

Landry also brought up the BC Loan Forgiveness program as another incentive prospective students can utilize to study and work in the north.

Tanya Stevens-Fleming, a local nurse, emphasized the importance of having the program offered locally.

“We can train local students in the north. They don’t have to leave. They get to live, work and play right in the north, in the community, so that brings lots of benefits,” Stevens-Fleming said.

“Not only that, with all of the reimbursements, loan forgiveness and all of those things, it ends up almost coming to school for free.”

For more information, including the complete list of prerequisites, visit UNBC’s website.

The application deadline to start in September 2023 is June 15th, 2023.

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