After more than a year of the COVD-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in applications for nursing or other health care training at Vancouver Island University.

VIU Dean of Health and Human Services, Dr. Patricia O’Hagan, says that by late April, there were over 500 applications for Health and Human Services programs this year, compared to less than 360 at the same time in 2020.

The interest is higher for nearly all health care programs offered by the university.

She says VIU’s Bachelor of Science program in nursing enrolls 72 students and the practical nursing program takes in 56 students.

The size of enrollment is limited by the space available at the university, as well as in the health care community where they are monitored and overseen by faculty and practicum co-ordinators

Dr. O’Hagan says the pandemic had an impact after people saw the “unfortunate situation that happened in some settings and the need for trained health care practitioners.”

Another factor was the pandemic’s restriction on movement that meant people were unable to attend institutions elsewhere.

However, Dr. O’Hagan also says a very important contributor is a new health care training pathway program.

She says the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training has put significant money into the entry-level program and that allowed VIU to increase the regular number of seats in nursing by eight.

O’Hagan says that in addition to the three regular cohorts of the health care aide program, VIU is “offering double that through part-time delivery in a relationship between the Island Health Authority, the ministry who provides and the employers who provide the students to the program.”

She says that the program has dramatically increased the numbers in programs across BC, as well as on Vancouver Island, “where the need for entry-level nursing is up.”

Meanwhile, Dr. O’Hagan says a new program at VIU is aimed at helping people with difficult-to-treat mental health or substance abuse problems.

She says it will allow health professionals working with “trauma resistant” patients to “get another kind of training to help in a very, very much needed area of prevention and treatment.”

Dr. O’hagan says the training will help treat people who have tried standard mental health and substance use therapy unsuccessfully, “so now we’re looking at new kinds of therapy at VIU with those trauma resistant folks” and the issues they struggle with..