Coyle: Registered and practical nurses are in demand

There’s an array of different types of nurses and nursing specializations including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.

Nursing is nursing, right?

Wrong, as you’ll quickly find out if you, your son or daughter are interest in a career as a nurse.

First, there’s an array of different types of nurses and nursing specializations, but let’s focus on the most recognizable in the B.C. health care system—Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses.

Registered nurses need to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree before writing the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination. Successful candidates can then apply for registration as a registered nurse with the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia.

Licensed practical nurses have to complete a diploma program and then write the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Exam, required for licensure in B.C.

The degree (registered nurse) and diploma (practical nurse) programs that lead to the designation and careers are both very popular, and despite some rigorous pre-requisits and admission requirements, there are usually far more applicants for these popular programs than the number of spaces available. That’s with good reason, though: Employment prospects for both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are better than good—they are excellent.

Both nursing programs have been offered for decades in the Okanagan, first through Okanagan College, then Okanagan University College, and in the last seven years, through Okanagan College. The BSN program has been offered through UBC’s Okanagan campus since 2005, although its roots go back years earlier to OUC.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing program grew last year in the valley when UBC and Okanagan College teamed up on a new stream of the program which sees 24 nursing students study for their first two years of the degree at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus and then complete their credential at UBC—it’s a great example of the co-operation that is building between the two institutions.

The practical nursing program at Okanagan College, like identical programs in publicly-funded institutions around the province, has undergone some significant changes of late. Until last fall, it used to be an intensive 12-month program but because of changes in what practical nurses are expected to be able to do in our nation’s hospitals and care settings, the College of Licensed Practical Nurses looked to Canada’s educators for a revamp of the curriculum and the program to align better with the LPNs scope of practice.

That meant significant change at the college level. With a lot of work to ensure that curriculum meets professional standards, Okanagan College introduced the new diploma program in January of this year. The length of study expanded from 12 months (including practicum) to 70 weeks, and of course, the curriculum expanded correspondingly. For the last six weeks students work in the field with a professional.

The pre-requisites also changed for the course and importantly, now would-be practical nurses are expected to have the usual English, math and science from high school, but are also expected to have taken and passed (70 per cent or better) a college course specifically for students entering practical nursing.

One of the reasons for that pre-requisite is to help ensure student success in the practical nursing program. And that’s something Okanagan College prides itself on—over the course of the last 15 classes of practical nurses graduating from Okanagan College, nearly 100 per cent of those writing the national licensing exam have passed. (Only two students have failed.)

Okanagan College offers the practical nursing program at various times at each of its campuses in Salmon Arm, Penticton, Vernon and Kelowna. The next programs students can apply for are in January, 2013 in Penticton and Kelowna. Deadline for applications is Aug. 31.

Students hoping to get into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Okanagan College will have to wait until Nov. 1 to apply for fall 2013 admission.

Kelowna Capital News