The Quebec Order of Nurses (OIIQ) voted in favour of upping the educational requirement for practicing nurses at an assembly last week, a decision that has proven divisive among nursing students.
As it stands, Quebec nurses need to hold a three-year CEGEP diploma to have the same practicing rights as other nurses across Canada. The motion would mean that only students who also obtain a bachelor’s degree would be able to take their licensing exam.
According to Evan Jolicoeur, president of the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association, the motion had been in the works for a while. “The DEC-only requirement was implemented because of the shortages of nurses. That was a quick fix at the time from my understanding, it wasn’t supposed to be long term,” he said.
A driving factor behind the decision was to give Quebec nurses the same level of education and experience that nurses with a bachelor’s degree receive.
“Each year the [education] gap grows wider. We’re not talking about a difference of a few hours but of thousands of hours,” Gyslaine Desrosiers, president of the OIIQ, told The Gazette last week.
The decision has upset student nurses who do not see much difference between a DEC and an undergraduate degree.
“The amount of years we put into our studies does not make us better or worse nurses. We put in overtime [and] juggle more than eight patients a day, which reflects on the patient care,” said Gladys Cortez Santiago, a recent graduate from John Abbott College’s three-year professional nursing program. “We get tired, we overlook things. Multiple factors [influence our abilities], not just school-based ones.”
Mary Puddington, the chairperson of Dawson College’s nursing program, agrees that there is little difference between the extra two years put forth towards a university degree.
“We encourage all our students to get bachelor degrees, but we graduate great nurses,” Puddington said.
What’s more, in Jolicoeur’s opinion, DEC-only nurses lack a level of critical thinking that enables them to assess patient needs and recognize potential signs and clues.
Despite these factors, the motion has touched a nerve with current students.
“Forcing students to go to university will scare them away from the profession. [The OIIQ] have to realize that many students are not young, many have their own family and are old and cannot afford to go to school for an extra two years to study,” said Maria Dramal, a third-year nursing student at Dawson College. “Many are already licensed nursesâ€”or doctors and med studentsâ€”in their country, which Quebec does not credit, that is why they took the [DEC]. This means they will need five years to relearn everything.”