Graduating UPEI nursing students could soon join battle against COVID-19

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, UPEI has 51 nursing students ready to graduate.

They were able to complete their clinical placements in March.

Now the university and provincial regulators are trying to speed up the process to make them eligible to be licensed so they can start working during the pandemic.

Jo-Ann MacDonald, the interim dean of the Faculty of Nursing at UPEI, said it is a strange time for students to be in their fourth year of the program. That's because many were part of the response phase of a "health emergency management situation."

There is a process for getting graduating nurses into the workforce quickly, she said.

"There are final grades that … have to be submitted. The student has to apply to write their national exam and they do that through the national testing authority," she said. 

"[College of Registered Nurses of P.E.I.] can issue a registration certificate so that our graduates can practise as a graduate nurse."


MacDonald isn't sure how many graduates plan to stay on the Island, but she thinks the provincial government's new $5,000 incentive may help.

"The incentive that's in place now is a financial incentive for the new graduates," she said. "And it's an uncertain time.

"So perhaps if some were planning to be away from Prince Edward Island, things may change now. A pandemic changes everything."

She said COVID-19 has already been added to the curriculum. It will be taught as part of a course this summer.

Some placements ended?

MacDonald said some nursing students not in their fourth year had to end their clinical placements early because of the pandemic, but they will have a chance to make up that time.

There was a warning that students shouldn't be working in long-term care facilities due to the potential spread of the virus, she said.

"In response to that we suspended clinical for first-year students," she said. "Those students are going to have the benefit of being with us over the next three years and their learning will continue."

She said it has been "hard to see" what is happening and how it is affecting nurses, but she said the situation isn't completely new.

"I'm a very seasoned nurse," she said. "It is not my first pandemic. We forget about the pandemic of HIV and AIDS. And we have encountered many challenges and many successes.

"So, I believe that the strength of the system and the leadership there will carry us through."

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

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