Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel says the community is ideally suited to host a satellite school of nursing.
The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor is still pursuing the idea of a satellite nursing school being located in the central community.
Since the closure of the paper mill in 2009, and recognizing the need for health care services now and in the future, the town has been working towards the development of such a school that help them build on their health care economy.
With Central Health projecting a need for 298 registered nurses (RN) in five years and 531 in 10 years, the town is actively pursuing this option. (See related article “Nurses in demand”.)
“It is a bit of a crisis,” said Mayor Barry Manuel.
Central Health’s director of human services, Mark Gill, said they are working in partnership with the town on this initiative.
“We do the best (recruitment) we can without having a direct pipeline to practice but certainly, with our forecast demand of 298 nurses over the next five years, if we had a dedicated school of nursing in central Newfoundland, Central Health would be the top employer hiring these graduates,” Gill said. “We feel it is of critical importance.”
Manuel feels Grand Falls-Windsor is well suited for the site of a satellite school of nursing through Memorial University (MUN). There are currently three schools of nursing in the province, with two in St. John’s and one in Corner Brook.
“We are centrally located and we’ve already been putting a lot of focus into health care initiatives. We we’ve got a lot of other irons in the fire as well when it comes to health care, and we’ve got the infrastructure here, we’ve got the amenities here,” he said.
Manuel said if a central school of nursing could offer 24 seats, over the course of four years that would translate into nearly 100 students.
“This would not only be giving a direct pipeline to Central Health to help fill some of the void, but you would also have students living here, spending money here and supporting the local economy, which is significant as well,” the Mayor said.
Manuel also sees it as an opportunity for those interested in pursuing a career in nursing from the central region to attend school closer to home.
“They may not normally choose that career path just because they don’t want to leave their home or because of the expense, that sort of thing,” he said. “There are so many benefits.”
Manuel said health facilities throughout the region would benefit from having nursing students train and then work for Central Health.
“Statistics have proven in other areas that people who train or go to school in a particular area, they tend to stay and work in that area,” he said. “That’s been true in Western Health and Eastern Health. Unfortunately, in central, we have been way behind in terms of being able to recruit and retain nurses.”
He says, “having a nursing school here would certainly go a long way to alleviating that problem.”
Gill said nursing — whether it is as an RN, nurse practitioner, licensed practical nurse or personal care attendant — is a great career option for people to consider.
“We know that despite the way the economy is now and the way it is forecasted to be — there’s going to be a continued demand for nursing positions in each of the four (nursing) groups in the coming years throughout the province and no more so than in central Newfoundland,” he said.
Gill encourages people in high school or those with an interest in the nursing field to contact the Central Health human resources department to find out what opportunities exist for entry into such programs.
Manuel said they have been meeting with stakeholders on this initiative over the last number of years. A curriculum is being developed by MUN to support the nursing program.
“We are ready,” he said.
This is in addition to meetings with government departments to let them know this is a high priority for the town.
“We want to let them know how important it is for Grand Falls-Windsor to have this school for the health care needs in the region,” Manuel said. “We feel like we’ve got the resources and the ability in Grand Falls-Windsor to effectively take on a satellite school of nursing and make sure it is a successful program.
“We are excited and certainly keeping our foot on the pedal pushing for this satellite school.”