More seats and financial help for internationally educated nurses

Alberta government announces additional capacity for bridging programs and a new bursary

Haley JarmainMount Royal University | Posted: February 13, 2023

Robin Stewart, associate professor and BCN coordinator, Uche Nechi, BCN graduate, Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education, Zaldy Patron, Philippine consul general, Jason Copping, minister of health, Chad London, provost and VP Academic, Lynn Connell, Vice-President Learner Experience ad Bow Valley College, Jennifer Mah, dean of health studies at NorQuest College.

From left to right: Robyn Stewart, associate professor and MRU Bridge to Canadian Nursing coordinator, Uche Nechi, BCN graduate, Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education, Zaldy Patron, Philippine consul general, Jason Copping, minister of health, Chad London, MRU provost and VP Academic, Lynn Connell, vice-president, learner experience at Bow Valley College and Jennifer Mah, dean of health studies at NorQuest College.

The Alberta government is creating more than 600 new seats for nurse bridging programs in the province and providing a new bursary that will be available to internationally educated nurses.

Over the next three years, $7.3 million will be invested to create more than 600 new seats for registered nurse and licensed practical nurse bridging and licensing programs, starting in the 2023/24 academic year.

At a news conference held at Mount Royal University, the Honorable Demetrios Nicolaides, PhD, Minister of Advanced Education, called the funding a “win-win” for the province, noting that it will not only reduce barriers for internationally educated nurses, but will help Alberta train more nurses to work in the health-care sector.

Of those new seats, 256 will be at Mount Royal University for the Bridge to Canadian Nursing (BCN) program, 250 will be at NorQuest College and 120 at Bow Valley College. They will be phased in over the course of three years.

“Nurses are always needed,” said Robyn Stewart, associate professor and program coordinator for MRU’s BCN program. “Professional nurses who immigrate to Canada but are not able to obtain or are stalled or delayed in obtaining a license are an untapped source of knowledge and skill.”

In addition to the new seats, as part of Budget 2023 Alberta’s government will invest $7.8 million annually to fund non-repayable financial support for internationally educated nurses. Eligible students will be able to access as much as $30,000 over five years to help offset the costs of nurse bridging programs, tuition and living expenses.

The bursary will be available for the 2023/24 academic year and recipients will be required to complete one year of nursing service in Alberta for every $6,000 disbursed.

Any internationally educated nurse learner living in Alberta, who has successfully enrolled in an approved bridging program, will be eligible for the bursary regardless of their eligibility for any other federal or provincial student aid. The amount of each eligible bursary will be determined based on the individual’s program of study, tuition costs, licensing and program fees, with a minimum of $8,000 awarded.

A third party will oversee the program and distribute funds on behalf of Alberta Student Aid.

Nicolaides was joined by the Honorable Jason Copping, Minister of Health, and the Consul General for the Philippines, Zaldy Patron.

“The costs of internationally trained nurses to get accredited to work in Alberta can be a hurdle for many looking to further their careers here. These bridging program bursaries remove the financial challenges and also help attract more health-care workers to the province to meet our growing needs,” Copping said.

The new bursary fulfills one of the agreements in a recent memorandum of understanding between the Alberta and Philippines governments.

“It will be of enormous help to the many Filipino internationally educated nurses who are now here in Alberta,” Patron said.

Uche Nechi completed her BCN program through Mount Royal last month. Originally from Nigeria, where she earned her degree in nursing science and worked in the health-care field before coming to Canada, Nechi says bursaries such as this one will help internationally educated nurses continue their careers here in Canada.

“Opportunities to access financial support are so helpful. I know from experience that the career I have chosen can be as demanding as it is rewarding. Support like this can mean we don’t have to work as many hours at our part time jobs or draw as much money from student loans,” Nechi said.

Internationally educated nurses who wish to bring their world of knowledge to the workforce in Canada can make the transition smoothly with Mount Royal University's Bridge to Canadian Nursing — BCN program.