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Indian nursing students get a glimpse of N.B. health-care system

Author: Tim Jaques

Posted on Jun 18, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

The best way to understand something is to experience it first-hand.

With this in mind, the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is hosting seven nursing students from India to see the many good things New Brunswick offers.

The Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) students were warmly greeted at a ceremony on June 17 at the Harriet Irving Library on the Fredericton campus.

This visit is part of an innovative partnership between UNB and MAHE where the students earn a dual nursing degree, qualifying them to practice in India and Canada.

The province had challenged UNB to help fill staffing gaps in the health-care system. To meet this need, UNB created the dual degree in nursing with MAHE, intending to bring 100 National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurses from India to New Brunswick between 2025 and 2029.

Each cohort in MAHE will have 25 students taking the joint degree. The program accepted its first cohort in 2022. There are now two cohorts in the system and a third will begin this August, for 75 students for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Graduates from the program are qualified to work in both India and Canada and students from India are eligible to take their National Council Licensure Examination for RNs so their accreditation process here will be much faster.

So that the program does not cause a drain on India’s health care system, the Indian Nursing Council approved an additional 25 nursing seats at MAHE.

The seven visitors will remain in the province for two weeks of practical training and observation called a preceptorship, during which they will work alongside nurses at Horizon Health Network and special care facilities operated by Shannex Incorporated.

The students will learn how Canadian health care differs from India’s while drawing their advisors’ attention to differences and nuances that cannot be gleaned from a textbook.

In their off-hours they will enjoy life in the Fredericton area. They had paid a visit to the powwow at Sitansisk First Nation and more outings are planned.

After their stay, the seven will take their observations of New Brunswick’s health care and lifestyle to Manipal.

UNB president and vice-chancellor Dr. Paul Mazerolle said in his remarks the dual degree program has received international attention in its short existence and has established a strong friendship between the two institutions.

He noted that the partnership has already led to a joint publication in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership on developing the dual degree model.

Dr. Sharath K. Rao, pro-vice-chancellor health sciences at MAHE, addressed the gathering from India via video link. He said health-care challenges do not respect national boundaries and require collaboration between institutions in different countries.

Dr. Rao said these challenges create opportunities, and MAHE and UNB grabbed an opportunity by creating the dual degree. He said besides this practical collaboration in nursing, there were also further joint research opportunities.

Siddhartha Nath, Consul General of India in Toronto, made the trip to Fredericton because he believes in the importance of the collaboration between the two institutions. He said the consulate and Indian government were committed to making it work and that the students would be made aware that New Brunswick embraces its growing Indian community.

Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training & Labour Greg Turner said recruitment and retention of nurses was a government priority, and the initiative between UNB and Manipal was an excellent example of a targeted initiative that would make a difference in growing the nursing workforce.

Turner said the initiative would reduce barriers for immigrant nurses seeking employment in Canada and provide immediate employment opportunities for graduates.

Two of the visitors are third-year nursing students Jessal Gladvin and Irine Ajay. Neither student had been to Canada before, and both expressed a desire to move here to practice nursing once they graduate.

Gladvin said he was interested in coming because he wanted to compare the Canadian and Indian health systems and see the career opportunities and methods of providing medication here.

Ajay said coming to Canada was a way to leave her comfort zone and experience a new country. She said she had received a warm welcome.

Dr. Linu George, a professor at Manipal College of Nursing, joined Turner, Nath and Dr. Mazerolle in presenting each of the seven students with a red lab coat bearing the UNB logo.

Also participating in the ceremony were Lorna Butler, UNB dean of nursing; Margaret Melanson, president and CEO of Horizon Health Network; Michel Rod, UNB vice provost strategic enrolment; Catherine MacPherson, Chief Operating Officer of Shannex Incorporated; Kate Sheppard, Interim CEO of the Nurses Association of New Brunswick; Dr. Judith Angelitta Noronha, professor and dean at Manipal College of Nursing (via video link from India); Dr. Petra Hauf, UNB provost and vice president academic; Eric Megarity, councillor Ward 6 representing Fredericton; and Cheyenne Joseph, UNB Piluwitahasuwin and associate vice-president, Indigenous engagement.

On June 28, a second ceremony will mark the end of the student visit.