March 28, 2019

UCalgary Nursing launches first-in-Canada program for busy health pros

One-year graduate certificates offer professional development, laddering options for Master of Nursing completion
UCalgary Nursing's Shelley Raffin Bouchal, left, Leda Stawnychko and Sandra Davidson.
UCalgary Nursing's Shelley Raffin Bouchal, left, Leda Stawnychko and Sandra Davidson. Faculty of Nursing photo

Nurses and other health professionals now have new opportunities to enrol in graduate education, thanks to a pioneering program that is compatible with the busy realities of work and family life.

The new Stackable Certificate MN Program consists of one-year certificates offered via blended online delivery. The certificates can be taken as a stand-alone credential and, on completion of two certificates, students may apply for admission into the Master of Nursing program to finish the degree in one additional year.

“We are launching the program after extensive consultations with our community partners, who remind us there is a serious shortage of nurses prepared at the graduate level in the province,” says Dr. Shelley Raffin Bouchal, RN, PhD, associate dean, UCalgary Nursing graduate programs. “These advanced practice nurses contribute significantly to the health-care system, and as of this fall, we are creating access for 100 new graduate students.” Raffin Bouchal is pictured above with Leda Stawnychko and Sandra Davidson.

The program was designed using teaching and learning approaches that foster inclusivity and accessibility for students from nursing and other health-related backgrounds and may include short-term immersion, weekend workshops and/or block courses. Each graduate certificate consists of a total of four half-courses to be completed over a year — one per semester.

Currently, there are four specializations available: Addiction and Mental Health, Contemporary Topics in Aging, Innovations in Teaching and Learning, and Leadership for Health System Transformation. Extensive consultation with stakeholders and potential participants indicated these were areas of importance and priority.

“Master's-prepared nurses are key to the transformation of the health-care system in Alberta and creating flexible pathways to obtain this education is increasingly important. The competencies they bring to the table in terms of evidence-informed practice, systems thinking and the contextualization and integration of knowledge are very much in demand,” says Sean Chilton, vice-president, health professions and practice for Alberta Health Services.

Leda Stawnychko, UCalgary Nursing senior consultant, says the stackable concept is a practical option for busy professionals who wish to continue working and who also need to balance family responsibilities.

“Health-care professionals now have the opportunity to complete a graduate certificate as part of their professional development plan, while registered nurses can also finish their master’s degree in a total of three years of part-time study,” explains Stawnychko, who provided strategic leadership and direction for the creation, development and launch of the program.

Additionally, the delivery model will allow students who live in rural and remote areas to continue living in their home communities while obtaining the credential.

For Dean Sandra Davidson, RN PhD,  the new program could not have come at a better time. “I am particularly excited that we are launching this program now as the faculty celebrates 50 years as part of the university,” she says.

“We have our sights set on the next 50 years and preparing nurses for future practice in roles that may not yet exist today. I see us developing additional certificate options focused on health-care technology and the art and science of innovation as it relates to health care.”

Applications will open in early April with the first cohort of students expected to begin the program in September 2019.