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 March 24, 2000 Volume 7, Number 13


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Govt agrees to degree for nurses, but wants speed-up & 260/year

The U of S has welcomed a compromise on nursing education proposed March 16 by provincial Health Minister Pat Atkinson.

The health minister withdrew an earlier suggestion she would allow three-year diploma graduates to become fully qualified nurses. Instead, she agrees that nurses will all get a degree education – but she holds out that nursing students could accelerate and take their training in three or three-and-a-half years, instead of the usual four.

And, she is sticking to the province’s raising of the annual number of first-year students in the Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan (NEPS) to 260 from the previous 180.

Michael Atkinson, U of S Vice-President (Academic) says the University will do its best to accommodate any nursing students who wish to accelerate their studies.

And he says he now expects an announcement of funding for the increased number of nursing students, in the provincial budget expected soon.

"We are hoping it will be enough to sustain the numbers (of nursing students) that the government wants," the V-P said.

And he reiterated that "University Council must approve the number of students enrolled in the program," since the University is autonomous and Council has final say over program quotas.

Michael Atkinson said he expects a formal request for a permanent change to the nursing program student quota to come from the College of Nursing shortly.

He stressed that, "We will be paying attention to our ability to offer a quality program, both here and in Regina."

Nursing degree students take their first and second years of training at SIAST (Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology). They take their third and fourth years from the U of S, which the University offers in both Saskatoon and Regina.

Pat Atkinson said she wants to provide for the accelerated degree program because "We needed to create ways to get qualified nurses into the workplace as quickly as possible."

Other options the government and nursing education stakeholders have discussed are:

  • Better recruitment and retention of aboriginal students.

  • More access to NEPS through distance education.

  • Finding ways to help former nurses re-enter the field.

  • Providing better credit transfer, so diploma nurses can get their degrees.

  • Possibly allowing a co-op program and a modified program for people already holding other degrees.

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