Nursing degree program comes to the Northeast

June 7, 2019
Nursing in the Northeast announcement at the Fort St. John Hospital. From left: Edward Stanford, Northern Health Board member; Dr. Dan Ryan, UNBC VP Academic and Provost; Katie Phillipoff, Northern Lights College nursing student; Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training; and Bryn Kulmatycki, Northern Lights President Download high-resolution image

Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

Fort St. John, B.C. -The first nursing degree program in the Northeast will ensure more patients in the region can access care that will improve their quality of life, while students can pursue health-care education and training closer to home.

Funding to support the planning and implementation of the University of Northern British Columbia’s northern baccalaureate nursing program was announced by Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. The minister was joined by students, staff and faculty from Northern Lights College (NLC), the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Northern Health.

“For years, students in the northeast of the province have been advocating for the education and training to pursue a career in registered nursing closer to home,” said Mark. “We know that people are more likely to stay and work in the communities where they get their education and training. The new nursing degree program is the result of strong partnerships and engagement with local stakeholders. Our government is proud to invest in the next generation of healers and health-care professionals.”

The UNBC program is a five-semester, two-year bachelor of science in nursing program, which will support 32 students at full capacity. The first class of 16 student spaces, to be operated out of Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, is expected to be up and running by September 2020.

Students applying must have a minimum of 60 university transfer credits. Local students can obtain university transfer credit courses from Northern Lights College through multiple pathways. Priority seating will be available to self-declared Indigenous and Northern Lights College candidates.

“Training more nurses in the North is one of the best ways to secure better health care in the North,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “For years, people have been advocating for a nursing degree program in the Northeast, and I am so proud that our government is delivering. Today’s action enhances team-based care — the foundation of our new primary care plan — and help address issues of recruitment and retention of health-care professionals. What a great day for public health care in northern B.C.”

Opening the doors to more training opportunities in the North for people to become registered nurses also supports the auditor general’s report entitled An Independent Audit of the Recruitment and Retention of Rural and Remote Nurses in Northern B.C.

While there have been isolated calls for the program for several years, partners were asked to come together by the Province. An integrated proposal from UNBC and NLC, with support from Northern Health and Peace River Regional District, was submitted in summer 2018.

Total provincial funding for startup and the first class of the northern baccalaureate nursing program in Fort St. John is $1.1 million.


Daniel Weeks, president, University of Northern British Columbia –

“Building a UNBC nursing degree program in the Northeast is great news for students, patients and northern communities. We look forward to continuing to work with Northern Lights College and Northern Health to deliver quality health-care education and training, and thank the local community champions for their support and inspiration throughout this process.”

Bryn Kulmatycki, president, Northern Lights College –

“We’re excited to be able to start working with our partners in developing the new nursing program. As a result of the degree program, students who want to pursue a career as a registered nurse will be able to stay closer to home.”

Cathy Ulrich, president, Northern Health –

“The new nursing program in the Northeast will improve Northern Health’s ability to recruit and retain nurses in the region. We look forward to the opportunity of welcoming nursing graduates from this new program to northern practice in the future.”

Quick Facts:

  • The B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasts that over the next decade, more than 900,000 jobs will need to be filled. Of those job openings, 77% will need some level of post-secondary education or training.
  • Nursing is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the province, reflecting caring for an aging population. An estimated 24,200 nursing job opening are expected in B.C. over the next decade, comprised of 19,600 registered nurses and 4,600 licensed practical nurses.

Learn More:

An Independent Audit of the Recruitment and Retention of Rural and Remote Nurses in Northern B.C.

Contact Information

Jennifer Fernandes
Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

Matt Wood
Director, Communications
University of Northern British Columbia

Markus Pickartz
Director, Marketing and Communications
Northern Lights College

  • Nursing
    Teaching and Learning Centre 10-1584
    Phone: 250-960-6309
    Fax: 250-960-6410

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