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Ontario post-secondary nursing programs see large increase in applications


Despite the very public struggles Ontario's health-care system has gone through in the last two-and-a-half years, it seems more people than ever are eager to join the field.

Both the Council of Ontario Universities and Colleges Ontario say applications to nursing programs in the province were up this year.

Combined, more than 25,000 applications were submitted, up 25 per cent since 2018 at both college and university levels.

Since last year, applications rose 14 percent at college nursing programs and eight percent at university programs.

"We've seen a rise in our applications here certainly," Sarah Hall, Dean at Algonquin College's Pembroke Campus tells CTV News.

"Especially this year and post-pandemic, there's certainly awareness of the need for nurses, and certainly more awareness of the crisis we're dealing with in the health-care system."

Pembroke resident Abigail Vanderhoek was one of those 25,000 applicants. She is looking forward to her first week at college and has dreams to become an emergency room nurse.

"I actually have a severe atopic dermatitis and have spent my entire life around doctors and nurses," says the 19-year-old.

"You really notice when you're going to all those appointments how much it matters who that person caring for you is. I want to be able to help someone in the way that people in the health-care system have been able to help me."

In response to the overwhelming number of applications, Algonquin College in Pembroke opened a second intake program for their winter semester, allowing them to put through between 150 and 180 nursing students each year.

"Being in the health-care system, on the ground, in the trenches is somewhere where a lot of people feel they can make a difference," says Algonquin College nursing professor Melissa Jarvis.

One of Jarvis's students this year will be 23-year-old Laura Littlewood, who is returning to college to follow a new career path in nursing.

She says the struggles the pandemic brought did not persuade her to take a different path.

"It didn't worry me at all, it actually made me more excited because now going into the workforce," says Littlewood. "I'm an extra body along with my peers in the program that can now help out all the nurses that are struggling out there."

"It's wonderful to hear that people are still wanting to come into the profession, especially after what we've gone through with COVID," said Rachel Muir, a registered nurse at The Ottawa Hospital and the local representative for the Ontario Nurses' Association.

"They're definitely coming into it now with no illusions."

Muir says she is happy to have the extra bodies join the workforce in two to four year's time, but is still worried about the current nursing employment vacancies.

"We need to be able to give back," said Vanderhoek, "and we can't do that if we have no one coming in."

(Photos by me. 1. Nursing lab at Algonquin College in Pembroke, 2. Melissa Jarvis giving a tour of the lab to Laura Littlewood (centre) & Abigail Vanderhoek (right), 3. Algonquin College's Pembroke Waterfront Campus Top Stories

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