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Alberta invests $15M to train international nurses to aid health-care system

The Alberta government says more than 600 new seats will be created in nurse bridging programs at three post secondary institutions to transition internationally educated nurses into the province's health-care system. 

"We are reducing barriers for internationally educated nurses (IENs) to come to Alberta," said Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of Advanced Education, in a Monday news release.

"This is truly a win-win for our province, and will help us train more nurses to keep our health-care system strong now, and in the future."

The province will invest $7.8 million annually to financially assist IENs, accessing up to $30,000 over five years, starting in the 2023-24 academic year, to aid with tuition, living expenses and the bridging program. 

"The costs of internationally-trained nurses to get accredited to work in Alberta can be a hurdle for many looking to further their careers here," said Health Minister Jason Copping. 

Recipients of the bursary are required to complete a year of nursing service in Alberta for every $6,000 disbursed.

This investment will create 256 new seats at Mount Royal University, 120 new seats at Bow Valley College and 250 new seats at NorQuest College.

"MRU is proud to be a place where internationally educated nurses who immigrate to Canada integrate their cultural understanding, skills and knowledge into the Canadian context," said Tim Rahilly, president of Mount Royal University.

Uche Nechi graduated from Mount Royal’s Bridge to Canadian Nursing program last month, after studying for a year following her move with her family to Calgary from Nigeria.

She says this program is needed to help alleviate financial stresses.

"To be able to focus more on their studies, instead of having to say, 'I have class today but I have to go to work tomorrow,'" said Nechi.

She says the transition was relatively simple, with a few differences between the two countries.

"Nigeria is all of the same people, similar cultures, where Canada is a multicultural country," she said.

"So we just have to learn that cultural safe practice."

United Nurses of Alberta welcomes the news but would prefer to see more immediate solutions.

"This is a bit more of a medium-term solution that is more measured in years, in terms of when help is on the way and we need help now," said vice-president Cameron Westhead. 

"We are proud to work with the ministry to remove barriers, empowering these health-care professionals to continue their studies and transition to a rewarding, in-demand field," said Michael Crowe, academic vice-president with Bow Valley College.

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