By Rob South
Far away from last week’s nurses’ strike, events occurred that could seriously impact health care in Calgary. On May 22, students in the Calgary Conjoint Nursing Program were informed Mount Royal College had decided not to renew the program it shares with the University of Calgary.
"Students weren’t consulted at all, neither were a lot of the faculty," said Erin Ludwig, CCNP student and Vice-president Academic for the MRC Students’ Association.
The CCNP will continue until this fall’s first-year class graduates. However, the program, which started seven years ago, will admit no more students.
Ludwig worries about how the health industry will accept graduates of the CCNP and the new degrees and diplomas from the programs that replace it.
"Three years of transition will hurt all students," she said.
The U of C Faculty of Nursing and MRC Centre for Health Studies originally negotiated a multi-year extension to the CCNP However, MRC Vice-president Academic Judy Eifert explained MRC’s senior administration’s rationale for not signing the extension to U of C Vice-president Academic Ron Bond in a letter dated April 17.
"We have been consistent in insisting that this agreement reflect a meaningful partnership rather than a relationship between a lead and supporting institution," wrote Eifert. "The university’s insistence upon retaining ultimate control over such fundamental matters as curriculum, records, budget and decision-making has undermined the principles that led to forming the conjoint program in the first place."
Bond and U of C Dean of Nursing Deborah Tamlyn did not expect MRC administration to stop the program.
"It was definitely a surprise; myself and my counterpart had agreed we were at a point to take the proposed agreement to the management group which is co-chaired by the VPs," said Tamlyn. "A half-hour before that meeting I got a call saying it was probably not going to be a smooth meeting."
Currently, the CCNP accepts 240 Bachelor of Nursing students a year. Students can stop their studies after three years to receive a nursing diploma. The question that concerns nursing staff, students, and administrators now is how programs at each institution will run.
"We will have to see. We do not know what either of [the programs] will look like, except that the U of C will grant BNS," said Ludwig.
The funding for the CCNP was divided evenly between the two institutions. The U of C is presently developing proposals for nursing classes of 120, 150 and 180 students a year; the proposals are contingent on the Ministry of Learning providing necessary funding. Under current provincial legislation, MRC cannot grant degrees on its own.
Tamlyn is concerned about the potential decrease in access to nursing degrees.
"If this de-coupling results in students having access to undergraduate nursing education, but not in a baccalaureate education, I think that would be unfortunate."
Ludwig echoed Tamlyn’s concerns.
"[Diplomas] don’t really meet the needs of the job market."
Regardless of the program’s closing, Tamlyn considered the CCNP to be a success.
"There are always issues when you are working on partnerships and strategic alliances, but as far as the graduates [are concerned]; they have been well received," said Tamlyn. "That ultimately is the test for me."