The Nursing Education in Southwestern Alberta (NESA) program is a four-year Bachelor of Nursing degree program (BN) delivered collaboratively by Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge (U of L). This innovative and collaborative nursing education program has undergone a thorough review and overhaul of its curriculum to ensure it is best meeting the contemporary needs of Canadians.

Co-led by the U of L and Lethbridge College, the redevelopment process included meetings with health-care stakeholders, working with a curriculum consultant and developing the curriculum framework. In the NESA Bachelor of Nursing program, students take their first two years of studies through Lethbridge College and their second two years at the U of L. Students study theory and experience clinical practice in the areas of medicine and surgery, long-term care and continuing care, pediatrics, maternity, labour and delivery, mental health, rural acute care and community health.

The new curriculum, introduced to the incoming first year NESA BN program students at Lethbridge College this fall, is the product of more than four years of consultations, planning and development. The program is delivered in a way that allows students to succeed and be ready to contribute to the health-care system upon graduation. This is the first major redevelopment of the NESA curriculum since the introduction of the collaborative program in 2002.

“This new curriculum represents a new philosophy in both education and nursing that focuses on relationships,” says Debra Bardock, Dean of Lethbridge College’s Centre for Health and Wellness. “Nursing is all about relational practices, and this curriculum has been designed with those same principles in mind. We believe the skills that create successful nurses also create successful students, and this curriculum will leave them better prepared to enter the health care sector.”

The NESA program prepares students to engage in caring, relational nursing practice with people and populations across settings, with the goal of promoting health, healing and wholeness. All 25 courses in the NESA BN program are new.

“We could not have predicted that we would be launching a revamped curriculum in the middle of a global pandemic, but in many ways it reaffirms for us the importance of educating nursing professionals that are ready for local, national and international health challenges,” says Dr. Shannon Spenceley, Dean of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. “Indeed, we were intentional in our focus on the health of individuals, communities and populations, global health, nursing leadership, virtual healthcare practice, digital health and the importance of many different ways of knowing to inform nursing practice.”

Highlights of the new curriculum include courses in first year that integrate Indigenous health practices and ways of knowing and a course where students will explore the principles, practices and issues related to health with a particular emphasis on building self-awareness and resilience. In the second year of the program, students will get practice experiences in both urban and rural settings with an increased focus on research and the use of evidence. In years three and four, students will build knowledge in the areas of mental health, health of communities and populations, and care of the acutely ill individual. This will be complemented by the study of nursing leadership, digital health and global health.

Students will graduate with all of the competencies required of entry-level nurses by the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta, be eligible to write the national nursing exam, and be well-positioned to meet the challenges of 21st century health care. Upon passing the national exam, graduates will be prepared to contribute to the health of Canadians as Registered Nurses.