Nursing applications are way up at Western, but there’s no room for more students

November 23, 2021
Nursing applications are way up at Western, but there's no room for more students
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As Western University continues to wait for government funding to expand its nursing program, applications to the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing were up by 20 per cent this past year, driving up competition at a time when nurses are burned out and leaving the profession in droves.

“We’re being told, ‘Oh, there’s such a nursing shortage. You’re going to do great. You’re going to have a job the minute you graduate.’ And then all the programs across Ontario take maybe 150 students on their first year,” said Alice Paradis, 18, who was first placed on a wait list before being accepted into Western’s nursing school.

Paradis applied to nursing schools at Western and at three other universities. She also applied to two college and university joint programs.

Especially with how many people were applying, it really was truly almost a raffle.– Alice Paradis

McGill and McMaster Universities rejected her application outright. So did Centennial College, which offers a joint program with Ryerson University. Western and Queen’s University put her on a wait list.

Humber College was the only institution that accepted her application right out of the gate.

Paradis’ Grade 12 average was 93 per cent.

“It’s always a guessing game, especially with how many people were applying. It really was truly almost a raffle,” said Paradis.

“You wish the government offered more funding for nursing programs, especially with such a terrible nursing shortage,” she said.

Victoria Smye is the director of the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing (Western University)

“We haven’t increased spots because we haven’t had increased funding,” said Victoria Smye, Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing director and associate professor.’

Over the last decade the school has incrementally added 100 seats, she said.

“We at Western are very committed to doing this,” she added. “There is a severe nursing shortage. We want to respond to that.”

In May, the Ontario government said it was investing $35 million into post-secondary nursing schools with the goal of graduating 2,000 more nurses. The money would only apply to one cohort of students and would end once those students graduated.

The money is paying for 32 additional students in Western’s compressed-time-frame Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, for students who already have a university degree.

It’s not permanent funding, said Smye. 

“It’s a struggle right now. Nurses are leaving. There’s a huge number of retirements,” she said. “But then we had the pandemic and that has created a number of nurses leaving the profession. People are tired, they’re burned out.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Colleges and Universities said the government is committed to expanding enrolment by 1,000 registered nurses and 1,500 practical nurses by 2026.

“The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities will work together on the allocation of additional enrolment to support this proposed increase,” said spokesperson, Bethany Osborne.

Alice Paradis, 18, is in her first year of Nursing at Western University. She was initially waitlisted for the program despite her 90+ entry average. (Submitted by Alice Paradis)

“I absolutely love it at Western,” said Paradis who was on the school’s wait list for a couple of weeks before receiving the offer email. 

“It was one of the best emails I’ve ever received.”

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