In a first for the community and the north, a licensed practical nurse training program is starting this September at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) campus here.
Half of the students for the 12-person class have already been accepted and applications are now being considered for the remaining spaces, says Guillermo Leon-Torres, the Prince George-based coordinator of the college’s practical nurse training program.
“I can tell you we’re very excited. This has been a long time coming,” he said last week of preparation work which has included getting the approval of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of B.C.
“And I can tell you Northern Health is also very excited,” Leon-Torres added.
This is the first time CNC is to offer practical nurse training outside of its Prince George campus and Burns Lake will be the smallest community in B.C. to be the home of a practical nurse training program.
CNC is hiring two Burns Lake-based instructors and Leon-Torres will be traveling from Prince George to Burns Lake regularly to teach a course.
The program is two years long with students starting classes each year in September and continuing for 10 months.
Depending upon their career aspirations, graduating students can apply to continue studies toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Leon-Torres said students typically represent a broad range of ages, education and life experience.
“Students can be anywhere from just graduating with their Grade 12 or equivalent to grandmothers,” he said.
Successful applicants must also have a grade of C+ or better in specific courses.
Mature student applicants are defined as being at least 19 years of age on the first day of the term for which admission is sought and have been out of the regular school system for at least one year. They must also speak with a CNC counselor or another CNC official prior to applying.
There’s a clinical placement requirement within the program with Leon-Torres saying those could be accomplished at the Lakes District Hospital, The Pines and, potentially, at the Southside Health Centre and the Houston Health Centre.
But for some clinical placement aspects, such as surgical, students will have to travel to the hospital in Prince George, he added.
“What makes this exciting is that students from Burns Lake and area don’t have to leave to take this training,” said Leon-Torres of the program.
“The goal is that people trained in the north will stay in the north.”
That objective was echoed by Northern Health recruitment manager Emelye Boyes who said there is a high demand for licensed practical nurses in the north.
“They are very valued professionals and like other professionals, they can be hard to come by. There’s definitely a need and it’ll be exciting for our recruitment department to meet with them,” she said of the Burns Lake group.
Boyes also welcomed the possibility of clinical placements in Burns Lake and area, noting that the number of such placements and specific categories would ultimately depend upon finding Northern Health employees to act as preceptors, people who work closely and supervise students.
As of last week, Northern Health’s website contained 30 openings for licensed practical nurses with many stating “open until filled”.
Another Northern Health official, Eryn Collins, noted that the senior Northern Health official in Burns Lake, Marie Hunter, was instrumental within Northern Health in support of the Burns Lake program.