CAPITAL investments totalling $7.4 million at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) will create hundreds of additional specialty nursing spaces to improve care for patients throughout the province, the government announced on Tuesday.

Specialty nursing is part of the school of health sciences at BCIT and advanced certificates are offered in a variety of specialized nursing disciplines. Courses are offered on a part-time basis to offer flexibility to learners, with certificates completed in as few as 18 months. The eight specialty programs include critical-care nursing, emergency nursing, neonatal nursing, pediatric nursing and perioperative nursing.

Work includes renovation to 1,375 square metres of space within five existing buildings to improve space utilization and infrastructure in support of the increased speciality nursing full-time equivalent (FTE) spaces. The renovations will be phased to minimize disruption to students and staff.

A new 465-square-metre modular building containing four learning spaces will be installed and integrated into the existing campus infrastructure.

Additional virtual simulation capacity for online courses will also be developed. Virtual simulation reduces the amount of clinical experience and the need for simulation lab space and equipment. Two small classrooms with WebEx capabilities will connect students in various locations to a BCIT instructor and simulation experience.

The capital investment of $7.4 million will result in an increase of 611 FTE spaces in speciality-nurse training phased over three years for an overall program total of 1,000 FTE spaces.

The funding for renovations, a new modular building and virtual simulation capacity supports the collective agreement signed in fall 2016 between the Province of British Columbia and the British Columbia Nurses Union.

Renovations and construction are expected to be completed by late 2017 with occupancy of the new space by early 2018. The project will create approximately 24 direct and nine indirect jobs.

Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education, said: “The investment of $7.4 million by our government will increase the number of specialty nursing spaces at BCIT by more than 150% to 1,000. Providing more nurses with greater access to specialty skills supports the growing health-care demands of British Columbians from birth through to old-age throughout the province.”

Kathy Kinloch, President, BCIT, said: “The specialty nursing program is the only one of its kind in Canada and is a vital component of the school of health sciences. This funding will help BCIT continue to provide the training and education registered nurses need to advance their health-care careers.”