New program offers Cape Breton nurses a better chance to study closer to home.

New program offers Cape Breton nurses a better chance to study closer to home.

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The Nova Scotia government’s new incentive program to help more registered nurses become nurse practitioners includes a partnership between Dalhousie University and Cape Breton University.

CBU has an undergraduate nursing program. But Cape Breton nurses taking Dalhousie’s master of nursing, which offers a focus on preparation for a nurse practitioner licence, would either have to move to Halifax to study full time, or study online and travel to Halifax once a week for labs.

Willena Nemeth, the director of nursing program at CBU, said the new program will eliminate the need to travel.

“They [nurses] will be able to do their weekly lab component locally at Cape Breton University,” she said. “I feel it will probably give practising nurses the opportunity that may not have existed prior because of that barrier, because travel may have been a barrier for some potential students.

“It certainly makes it more attractive for practising nurses.”

A CBU faculty member, who is a nurse practitioner with a doctorate, will be on secondment for the next two years with Dalhousie, but will remain on site at CBU to deliver course work and clinical labs.


Athanasius Sylliboy of Eskasoni and Chris Browner of Sydney, registered nurses who work at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, will continue their studies to become nurse practitioners. 

“Working in the emergency department, you see first hand [the] physician shortages, how it overcrowds our ER department, so it kind of takes a toll on us as nurses,” said Sylliboy.

“So I thought this would be a great opportunity for me, being from Eskasoni and being Mi’kmaq. I thought, ‘What would be better to have a Mi’kmaq-speaking nurse practitioner working in his own community.'”

Browner said they don’t know if they’ll be chosen for the incentive program, but if they are, they will work in primary care in Cape Breton.

“It will be a chance to improve the area that we have seen the most difficulty with,” she said.


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