New Era for Nursing

Students Gieselle Ortilla (left) and Lynette Trinidad (centre) give a vital-signs demonstration to incoming student Tiffany Huntinghawk (right).

The College of Nursing has significantly increased the number of seats in its bachelor of nursing program.

In May, the college welcomed its first summer intake of 120 students. Going forward, it will admit a class of that size every January, May and September.

The expansion was set in motion in 2021, when the Province of Manitoba announced that it would invest in post-secondary institutions to address the province’s nursing shortage. That included an initial investment of $4.3 million at UM.

In addition to expanding the program from two intakes per year to three, the College of Nursing will now deliver the program year-round across three terms (summer, fall and winter), rather than two terms. With this accelerated approach, students will complete the program in 28 months, one year ahead of the previous schedule.

Incoming student Tiffany Huntinghawk, 38, is originally from Rolling River First Nation, about 40 minutes north of Brandon, and spent the majority of her life in Winnipeg’s inner city. She has wanted to be a nurse since she was 10 years old.

“I’ve always been interested in the health-care environment,” she said. “I want to work in a hospital setting, get the knowledge, experience and skills and then take it back to Indigenous communities, especially northern communities.”

The third intake brings the total number of nursing students per year to about 400, including graduate students.

Dr. Netha Dyck [BN/88], dean of nursing, said the college is hiring 20 faculty and 15 support staff to accommodate the expansion. “With year-round programming, we will have about 120 graduates available for employment three times per year,” she said.

The inaugural summer cohort was welcomed at a day-long orientation that included remarks from Brenda Longclaws [B.Ed/86, M.Ed/00], Knowledge Keeper at the college, and Peter Nickerson [B.Sc. (Med.)/86, MD/86], dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

“We know the nurses on the front lines are waiting for you,” Nickerson told the students. “We have 10,500 UM nursing alumni over an eight-decade history, and that is a really remarkable cohort that you are going to be part of.”

Dr. Nicole Harder [BN/96, MPA/02], associate dean of undergraduate programs at the college, advised the students to expect an intense program. “You will have challenges, but don’t forget why you’re here in the first place. There’s a reason you chose to come into nursing.”

Winnipegger Sierra Rodych, 22, is excited to be part of the new intake. Born with clubfoot, a foot disorder, Rodych spent a lot of time in hospitals and had several foot surgeries prior to age 12. She has many positive memories of how nurses and hospital staff cared for her.

“It made an impact on me, and I’d like to make that kind of impact, too,” she said. Rodych is looking forward to working in a hospital, which she’ll be able to do earlier because of the accelerated program.

“I’m excited,” she said. “I know it’s going to be a lot at once without a break, but I think that might be better because sometimes you can lose motivation during a break. Plus, I work better under pressure.”

Fittingly, classes began for the new students on May 8, the start of National Nursing Week. This year’s theme was “Our Nurses. Our Future.”