Rural community undergrad nursing degree expands to Drayton Valley

June 16, 2023

Wainwright, Drayton Valley to both host UCalgary, AHS program

DRAYTON VALLEY – Building on the success of their pilot program in Wainwright, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and University of Calgary (UCalgary) are expanding their Bachelor of Nursing degree to Drayton Valley.

Starting in the fall of 2024, the degree program will accept up to nine students living in the Drayton Valley area who will earn a university degree to become a registered nurse without leaving their home community.

“I am thrilled for Drayton Valley and area, as this program will provide an excellent opportunity for potential students interested in a future in healthcare,” says Andrew Boitchenko, MLA-elect for Drayton Valley-Devon.

“It also fills a significant need for skilled nurses in the region, which is good news for patients and families in the community.”

The Chief Zone Officer for AHS Central Zone agrees.

“Recruitment of nursing staff, especially to rural sites, is challenging across Alberta,” says Janice Stewart, Chief Zone Officer with AHS Central Zone.

“By creating opportunities to educate registered nurses in their home communities, we are building capacity for a local, more sustainable workforce into the future.”

With its inception in Wainwright in 2021, the Bachelor of Nursing program was developed as a way of reducing barriers to learning, recruiting students to healthcare careers, and encouraging graduates to stay in their home communities.

The program will have its third intake of students in Wainwright in the fall of 2023. Once all three Wainwright nursing cohorts (2021, 2022, 2023) have completed their four-year degree, approximately 23 new registered nurses are expected to join the workforce in Wainwright and area.

“Our community partners have been incredibly supportive of this program and have been integral to its success,” says Sandra Davidson, Dean of the UCalgary Faculty of Nursing.

“As we continue to provide an excellent academic and clinical experience for students, we are grateful to work with partners who have an important stake in ensuring we are meeting the healthcare needs of our communities across Alberta.”

The Town and M.D. of Wainwright have been key partners of the Wainwright program. UCalgary and AHS are working with municipal and health partners in Drayton Valley to replicate that success.

“I commend the municipal and foundation partners in Wainwright and area for championing this program,” says Garth Rowswell, MLA-elect for Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright.

“The enthusiasm and support of the community and the success of this program has allowed AHS and University of Calgary to commit to the education of registered nurses for this area for years to come.”

The Drayton Valley program will run for two cohorts of students, with intakes in 2024 and 2025, with the goal of preparing 18 nursing graduates. Nursing students will take a combination of both virtual and in-person classes.

To ensure its long-term sustainability, the program will adopt a staggered intake in Wainwright to ensure there are enough qualified potential students and nursing positions within the program’s geographic area. Following the fall 2023 intake in Wainwright, the program will open to new students every second year, with next intakes in the fall of 2025 and 2027.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Our mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. Our current focus is on reducing emergency department wait-times, improving EMS response times, increasing access to surgeries, and improving patient flow.

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