Nurses are in demand across Northern Ontario

Northern College nursing students participating in the program’s Rural and Remote Nursing Experience in Moose Factory on the James Bay Coast learn about Aboriginal culture and the health-care challenges in First Nation communities.

Northern College pass rates in license exam surpass provincial average

Recent reports about hospitals laying off staff are not indicative of an oversupply of nurses, according to Joan Martin-Saarinen, co-ordinator of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Northern College in Timmins.

“It may be the case in southern Ontario, but I will tell you as a nurse with 40 years of experience that there’s definitely a shortage of nurses in our region.”

Northern College is one of several post secondary institutions in Northern Ontario offering baccalaureate and practical nursing programs.

“Our students have been very fortunate,” said Martin-Saarinen. “They’ve all found employment. Many of them are hired at first on a permanent part-time basis, but they are usually able to work as many hours as they wish, and some are hired on a full-time basis right after graduating, which is unusual in the rest of Canada.”

According to statistics published by the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, 84.8 per cent of all Northern graduates for the reporting year 2016-2017 found employment within six months of graduation, exceeding the provincial average of 83 per cent.

Northern’s four-year BScN program is offered in collaboration with Laurentian University, which sets the curriculum and confers the degree, but unlike community colleges elsewhere in Ontario which send students in their baccalaureate program to their affiliated university for years three and four, Northern provides the entire four-year program onsite at its Timmins and Kirkland Lake campuses, notes Sarah Campbell, Northern’s associate dean of health sciences and emergency services.

The college also offers practical nursing and personal support worker (PSW) programs at campuses in Timmins, Kirkland Lake and Haileybury, as well as a Medical Laboratory Technician program in Timmins. Practical nursing and PSW programs are also offered in Moosonee on the James Bay Coast based on demand.

Northern accepts approximately 45 students in its baccalaureate program and graduates between 20 and 30 registered nurses every year. The practical nursing program accepts approximately 30 students and graduates between 20 and 25 students annually.

The majority of students come from Timmins and other communities in northeastern Ontario, including the Haileybury-New Lisleard area, as well as the James Bay Coast, but Northern has also started to attract students from southern Ontario because of its high pass rates for students writing the mandatory National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses.

Of the 23 Northern students writing the NCLEX exam in 2015, 82.6 per cent passed on their first attempt. Another two students passed on subsequent attempts for a total pass rate of 91.3 per cent. In Ontario as a whole, the average pass rate on the first attempt was 69.4 per cent and 83.8 per cent including subsequent attempts.

The scores for every college and university in Ontario are reported in the Nursing Examination Reports published online by the College of Nurses of Ontario and are available for review by students deciding which college or university to apply to.

Northern offers several unique experiences for nursing students, including a Peer-to-Peer Health Promotion Program and its Northern Rural and Remote Nursing Experience.

“It’s always challenging to find clinical placements for our students in the community, so we developed the on-campus Peer-to-Peer Health Promotion Program to provide our third-year RN students with practical experience in health promotion,” said Martin-Saarinen.

Nursing students set up tables on campus and counsel fellow students on smoking, mental health, misuse of alcohol and drugs, healthy eating, physical activity and sexual violence.

They’re also asked to go out to schools in the community to teach children about bullying, tobacco use and hand washing.

The Rural and Remote Nursing Experience Program is an elective in third year that brings students to Moose Factory on the James Bay Coast, where they and learn about Aboriginal culture and the health-care challenges in First Nation communities, said Tracy McGrath, clinical co-ordinator for Northern’s nursing program.

“The students are placed in the hospital and public health unit. They participate in cultural activities and ceremonies, including sweat lodges and pow-wows, and learn about traditional approaches to health care.”

Another aspect of Northern’s nursing program that’s unique is the fact that the college’s nursing faculty members teach in both the baccalaureate and practical nursing programs.

“That’s a great benefit,” said Martin-Saarinen, “because we’re very well versed in the similarities and differences of both nursing categories, so we can help students when they’re thinking of transferring between the two programs. In other colleges, the two faculties work in silos.”

Students applying to Northern’s BScN program are required to have a minimum overall 75 per cent average with Grade 12 credits in Math, English, Chemistry and Biology, or a 3.0 GPA in Northern’s two-semester Pre-Health Science program.

Admission to the practical nursing program requires a minimum 65 per cent average.

Northern College programs:
– Addictions Counsellor
– Child & Adolescent Mental Health
– Massage Therapy
– Medical Laboratory Technician
– Bachelor of Science in Nursing
– Occupational Therapy Assistant/Physiotherapist
– Practical Nursing
– Paramedic
– Personal Support Worker
– Pre-health Sciences

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