Housing Crisis Hinders Nursing Program Enrollment Amid BC Nurse Shortage

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A year ago, Evan Dendewicz was an active student at the University of Victoria. However, he discovered a newfound interest in nursing, compelling him to shift gears professionally. Consequently, he applied to Camosun College and the University of Victoria’s joint nursing program, gaining acceptance, and is currently three weeks into his four-year undergraduate journey.

In an interesting turn of events, the program’s enrollment is surprisingly lower than expected this year. “We’re currently operating with 142 students, falling short of our 160 student capacity,” shared Kirstin McLaughlin, the chair of the nursing program. This stands in stark contrast to the program’s history of long waiting lists. “In normal circumstances, we receive around 600 applications for the 160 available spots. This year, we only had about 450 applicants,” she added.

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Among the 450 applicants, some did not meet the required admission criteria and others opted for different post-secondary institutions. The reasons behind these choices are multifaceted. However, a recurrent issue pointed out by many prospective students has been the struggle to secure affordable housing.

This phenomenon is concerning for the B.C. Nurses Union, especially with the current shortage of around 5,000 nurses in British Columbia. Union president Adriane Gear noted, “Our system desperately needs every potential nurse right now. It’s disconcerting to see unfilled seats in the school’s nursing program. The issue is not just about affordability, but also a lack of available renting options.”

In an attempt to ease this crisis, Camosun College is considering the construction of student housing on the Interurban Campus, pending the allocation of funding from the province.

Among the lucky ones to secure housing is first-year nursing student Tracy Stoessiger. After spending 15 years in Human Resources, Stoessiger chose nursing as her new career path. She mentions the challenges faced by other students not established in the community, stating, “I have heard from older students that the lack of affordable housing and the need to seek out financial support makes their journey rather difficult.”

Once again, the persistent issue of affordable housing in the capital region is seen as a significant barrier, preventing the influx of healthcare professionals our healthcare system desperately needs.