McGill announces creation of online Bachelor of Nursing degree

McGill announced that it will be launching Quebec’s first online Bachelor of Nursing degree in on Oct. 24. The program, which aims to address a lack of baccalaureate-holding nurses in the province, will be offered in both English and French starting in 2021.

Quebec’s nurses are less educated than their peers across Canada. While 63-73 per cent of nurses hold a bachelor’s degree in other provinces, the number drops to only 46 per cent in Quebec. The difference can be attributed to Quebec’s unique requirements: Nurses only need to hold a nursing Diplôme d’études collégiales (DEC) from a CEGEP to practice, while in the rest of Canada, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is required.

Annie Chevrier, the Program Director for McGill’s Bachelor of Nursing Integrated and Online Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) Initiatives, explained the serious consequences of this education disparity.

“An increase in bachelor-prepared nurses has positive outcomes on Quebec’s healthcare system, specifically in improved patient outcomes,” Chevrier wrote in an email to ///The McGill Tribune./// “A 10 [per cent] increase in bachelor-educated nurses has shown to result in a [four to seven per cent] decrease in patient death [….] The Quebec population is aging. Care has been restructured such that patients in hospitals are more acutely ill and are discharged sooner. [So] critical care and community health nursing—competencies gained during a Bachelor of Nursing—are increasingly important.”

A donation from the Doggone Foundation made launching the program possible, explained James Clement, the Communications Manager of the Faculty of Medicine.

“[The Doggone Foundation’s] gift towards the BNI Online Program was for $1 million,” James Clement wrote in an email to the //Tribune//. 

Chevrier explained that an online program will allow nurses to further their education while still continuing to practice. 

“Amazingly, there are no online bachelor-level nursing programs for licensed nurses in Quebec,” Chevrier wrote. “A Quebec nurse’s only online options are in other provinces […] An online program offers increased flexibility for work and family life, while removing geographic barriers to access. Another part of improving accessibility is making the program bilingual […] A number of nurses who attend McGill are Francophone and are completing their first English program with us.”

Education professor Caroline Riches emphasized that online courses grant versatility that traditional courses do not offer.

“I think that the main benefits of online courses and programs are access and flexibility,” Riches wrote in an email to the Tribune. “[They offer] access to student[s] who do not live close enough to the university to attend on-campus, face-to-face classes, [and] flexibility for those who may be working full-time or on shifts.”

Riches believes that the online degree is a step in the right direction for McGill’s nursing program. 

“The main disadvantages or challenges for any online course or program [are a] lack of student engagement, lack of community, and motivation,” Riches wrote. “Nevertheless, there are ways to address this and increase online presence and build online community—which I am sure nursing is aware of [….] I am a big supporter of online courses and do think [that] McGill should expand its online offerings.”

Chevrier explained that concerns about online courses offering lower quality education were unwarranted, as the Online Design Team from McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) would work to create comprehensive online materials.

“There is extensive research to support that online learning is an effective method of instruction for students in many disciplines, including nursing,” Chevrier wrote. “We are confident that this program will provide the same high-quality education that students expect from McGill [….] The vision behind the online design is student engagement, interactivity, and the creation of a vibrant community of learners.” 

Riches observed that offering the online program was a wise choice in improving Quebec healthcare.

“I think [that] it is important to offer courses and programs that meet the needs of the market – and nursing [h]as done this,” Riches wrote.

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