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Portage College expanded nursing program hopes to address health care needs

Nancy Broadbent, president and CEO of Portage College, provided County of St. Paul council updates on work being done to address nursing staff shortages in the Lakeland.

LAKELAND – Portage College is working to help fill vacancies in health care facilities across the Lakeland by offering educational opportunities close to home for future nurses.

During the June 13 County of St. Paul council meeting, the expansion of Portage College's rural nursing program was highlighted. Nancy Broadbent, president and CEO of Portage College, said 37 students graduated with a Practical Nursing diploma at the post-secondary institution's recent convocation, held earlier this month. 

And now, students who acquired their diploma and are Licensed Practical Nurses, can improve their credentials via an opportunity to complete their Bachelor of Nursing degree with the University of Calgary - without having to relocate. 

The online program is coming to Portage College’s St. Paul campus in January of 2024. The College also hosted a virtual open house on June 20 for students looking to find out more about the Bachelor of Nursing program. 

“We’re really hoping that we’ll fill all those [spots] in St. Paul this coming year,” said Broadbent. 

Another pieces of the puzzle is bringing international nurses to the region. The College is now able to offer a bridging nursing program for international nurses, according to Broadbent, “to complete just the portion they need to be certified.” She said some international nurses face challenges with the nursing exam, and the program will assist with preparing international nurses to pass the exam. 

Broadbent also said the college is busy with recruiting international students to its St. Paul campus for its nursing program. “We’re trying to do what we can as well to bring more people into the community,” she said. The college has received two applications so far. 

With that, Broadbent hopes nurses “are going to be coming out of this community... [and] hopefully we keep them around.” 

Rural Renewal Stream (RRS) 

Other updates relayed during the delegation include Portage College’s partnership with the St. Paul Elk Point Economic Development Alliance (STEP) to provide service to people immigrating to St. Paul, or those moving to St. Paul for work, for example as part of the Rural Renewal Stream program, which STEP is involved with. 

The college is providing a “Settlement Coordinator” position at the St. Paul Campus as the first point of contact for international persons coming into the region. The coordinator will connect people to available resources such as housing, transportation, childcare, and help “make them more integrated in the community.” 

County of St. Paul Coun. Ross Krekoski asked when this work would start. Broadbent said that as soon as people arrive, the coordinator can start helping them. 

Portage College is also providing English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at the St. Paul campus to aid in the process. 

Krekoski asked for more details regarding the college offering ESL classes, stating, “I’m just thinking ahead because normally... people come in, they get employment, and then they’re probably looking to immigrate under [something like] Canadian Experience Class,” which is a program for skilled workers who have Canadian work experience and want to become permanent residents. 

In cases like that, it requires the mastery of English to a certain level, added Krekoski. 

Broadbent also cited its Community Adult Learning Programs (CALP) is available at the St. Paul campus. CALP is free of charge and funded by the Government of Alberta Advanced Education and includes English language learning for international persons settling in St. Paul. 

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