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Education & training

Nursing training centre planned for Edmonton

EDMONTON – The directors of Grant MacEwan College, in Edmonton, believe they will soon receive the go-ahead for a proposed Health Learning Centre. The facility has been in the planning stages for about four years, and will include classrooms and labs for a variety of health programs, as well as a new college of nursing.

According to the Edmonton Journal, the project will be constructed at a cost of $42 million. Already, a fundraising campaign has raised $6.8 million from private donors and corporations.

Most of that money is expected to be used for acquiring state-of-the-art equipment, such as high-end patient simulators for nurses to train on.

Grant MacEwan College currently has about 900 nursing students, and competition for entry to the school is said to be intense – each year, hundreds of applicants are turned away, while hospitals and medical centers across the province and Western Canada complain of a shortage of nurses.

The Health Learning Centre, along with increased “access funding” from the province to create more student spaces, will allow the college to expand its program to serve about 1,400 to 1,700 students, many from Alberta, others from across Canada and overseas.

At the moment, the college offers only a two-year nursing program. After that, students can either transfer to the University of Alberta to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing, or leave MacEwan with a diploma and write their registered nursing exams.

However, the college has applied to the province to establish its own four-year university degree program in nursing.

Training more nurses is seen as a way of alleviating the growing shortage of nursing staff in healthcare centers and improving the delivery of care, in general.

According to the Edmonton Journal, the average age of nurses in Canada today is 45 – and fewer than 25 percent are under 30. Nurses are eligible to retire at 55, and almost 30 percent of Alberta’s nurses will reach that age by next year. By 2015, an estimated 50 percent of today’s nurses will be of retirement age.

Some analysts argue that the rising costs of healthcare can be better contained by enabling nurses to provide more services. By allowing nurses to provide more frontline healthcare, they say, pressures on physicians will be partially offset.

MacEwan staff estimate the building will take about two years to complete. The hope is to open the door for classes in September of 2007.