OTTAWA -- Post-secondary school nursing programs in Ottawa are seeing a spike in applications for enrolment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the University of Ottawa, interest in the undergrad program has increased slightly, but applications for graduate programs have surged. 

Dr. Dawn Stacey is a nurse and a full-time professor at the university.

"In the masters of nursing program, we have a 69 per cent increase in applications, and in the masters combined with nurse practitioners program we have seen a 117 per cent increase in applications," said Stacey.

"At first, we were in shock because these numbers are quite significantly bigger."

Stacey suspects many nurses working on the frontlines are coming back to school in order to advance their careers or get into leadership positions. 

"I suspect that many of the nurses who have been working through COVID on the frontlines starting to reconsider what they want as a career for the next five, 10, 15 years,“ says Stacey. 

"I have hope for the future of nursing,” says graduate student Kristina Ma.

She says many nurses want to go into leadership positions, and impact policy decisions.

"I think that it may be a reflection that nurses want change. Nurses want to contribute; they want to become nurses to make a difference. And we have the skills and knowledge to do that," said May. 

Algonquin College has also seen an increase in enrolment since the pandemic.

Chris Hammar started the nursing program just after the pandemic began last year.

"There is a need for us out there. We see that there is a need and people just drop what they are doing and go into something to help our fellow Canadians," said Hammer.

"My mother worked at (Toronto's) Sick Kids (hospital) during the SARS outbreak. During that time, we wouldn’t see my month for about a few months. It was always ingrained in me that's what it was like to be a frontline worker."