A new nursing degree program at MRC will help meet a labour shortage of health care workers.
the Gauntlet

Mount Royal College gets nursing degrees

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Mount Royal College is one step closer to becoming a full degree-granting institution.

The school will offer a four-year nursing degree program for the 2007/08 academic year with the help of a one-time donation of $10 million from the Alberta government announced Thur., March 15.

This is the first full degree offered by the institution and MRC officials are excited about the move.

"We've been working for almost four years to create an appropriate environment where we can deliver our quality university degrees," said MRC president Dr. Dave Marshall. "In essence, we're shifting a lot from a college environment to a university environment. Nursing is the first of the degrees that recognizes this change."

Marshall noted that MRC and the nursing curriculum itself had to go through various reviews before the decision could be finalized.

"We were reviewed by three external people from universities around the country to determine whether we could deliver university degrees," said Marshall. "We went through the nursing accreditation and all of them told us what we knew, which was that we didn't quite have it yet, but if we worked on it, we were going to be able to do that. So we kept working and this is finally the approval we've been waiting for."

While the new program will house 260 students for its inaugural year, MRC hopes to expand it to 980 spots by 2010/11. In light of the clinical and educational nursing shortage in Alberta, this could release some of the pressure on the system and extend working partnerships between post-secondary institutions.

Despite the new spots, the University of Calgary isn't worried about the competition.

"This is a step in the whole evolution of nursing education [in Alberta]," said U of C faculty of nursing acting dean Dianne Tapp. "We've always had a great relationship with Mount Royal and while we've always had a shared focus, our priorities are slightly different. Because of that, we can work together to serve a larger and more diverse group of nursing students better."

Tapp added that the introduction of MRC's program also increases the number of nursing students that will eventually seek their master's and doctorate degrees, therefore increasing the interest in U of C's graduate nursing programs.

The provincial government is also supportive of the move.

"Enabling colleges to give degree programs means that Albertans have more post-secondary education opportunities," said Alberta Advanced Education public affairs officer Donnae Shuhltz. "The Alberta government is committed to fighting the shortage of health coverage in the province and this announcement is going to create a healthier Alberta."