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Government grant aims to keep medical students in underserviced communities

Owen Sound Regional Hospital (CTVNEWS) Owen Sound Regional Hospital (CTVNEWS)
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Ontario is attempting to use a newly expanded grant to entice medical students to work in underserviced communities after graduation. Students enrolled in eligible nursing, paramedic, or medical laboratory technologist programs can now apply for the 'Learn and Stay' grant, which provides total upfront funding for tuition, books, and other costs.

However, to receive the grant, students must agree to stay and work in underserviced communities after graduation. The program is designed to encourage students to learn and stay locally, helping to bring in-demand healthcare workers to communities that need them most across the province.

The Ontario government says this is part of their plan to deliver more convenient and connected care to residents in every corner of the province.

"This grant is a win-win for postsecondary students and communities across Ontario, ensuring our future healthcare workers get the world-class training they need to give a much-needed boost to local healthcare facilities in the communities that need it most," explained the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop.

The province believes that Ontario residents should be able to receive the care they need close to home, no matter how big or small their community is.

"We know the status quo isn't working and moving forward with bold initiatives like these to add more health care professionals in Ontario will benefit rural and remote communities especially," said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

The government has committed $61 million to the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant.

"When Georgian launched our standalone nursing degree in fall 2022, our research estimated the need to hire 4,300 new nurses over the next decade in Grey, Bruce and Simcoe counties, to accommodate regional growth and replace retiring nurses," said Georgian College President and CEO, Kevin Weaver. "Not only will the Learn and Stay Grant make nursing studies more accessible to local students, but it will also attract others from outside the area who want to launch rewarding nursing careers in underserviced regions of our province like Grey Bruce. These future nurses are critical to our communities."

Students must commit to work in the region where they studied for at least six months for every year of schooling funded by the grant. They can also still apply for Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to help pay for other costs, such as living expenses.

"After they graduate, the additional nurses will make an immediate difference in local facilities, such as the Owen Sound Hospital, Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre and Southbridge Owen Sound long-term care facility, helping to connect people to care, closer to home," said Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP, Rick Byers.

Grant applications for the 2023-24 academic year are now open for postsecondary students who enrol in their first year in the following programs and regions:

  • Nursing programs in northern, eastern and southwestern Ontario.
  • Medical laboratory technologist/medical laboratory sciences programs in northern and southwestern Ontario.
  • Paramedic programs in northern Ontario.

Students can apply up to 60 days before the end of their study period, meaning they can apply for the grant well after they've started their eligible 2023-24 program. 

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