Sask Polytech Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing program opens doors and improves patient care


One of Amanda Rowley's favourite quotes is, "A year from now, you'll wish you had started today." It's a quote she seems to live by, and it's served her well.

Rowley is a community mental health nurse working in Unity, Saskatchewan. She also teaches nursing students at the University of Saskatchewan. The teaching position wouldn't have been possible had she not earned her bachelor's degree in psychiatric nursing at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

The part-time, online program was developed for registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) and is geared towards those who are working full time. The online program is flexible and accommodating to busy schedules.

Dr. Netha Dyck, dean of the School of Nursing at Sask Polytech, says the online format makes the program convenient, appealing and accommodates for the busy schedules of working nurses.

"That's a real advantage for the way we're delivering the program. Not only do students not have to leave the province, but they don't even have to leave their community. They can take the program right from their own home, right now," says Dyck. "We offer the only bachelor of psychiatric nursing program in Saskatchewan."

By taking two courses a semester, students can graduate in as little as two years. Often, students find they are eligible to transfer credit from other colleges and universities. If life gets too busy, students can opt to take one course per semester, instead of two. In addition, they have some flexibility in determining the exam dates.

Rowley was one of the program's first graduates when she completed her degree last year. Her husband, Johann Engelke, is also an RPN set to graduate with his bachelor's degree this spring.

"We felt that the future of psychiatric nursing was changing and that the positions you can attain with just your diploma now may not be attainable in the future," says Rowley. "But we also really wanted to continue opening doors for ourselves, so that we'd be able to move around more, but also just to continue developing ourselves professionally."

For Engelke, a significant professional development opportunity still awaits him. He's about to pack his bags for Africa for the four-week final clinical placement required for his degree.

"I'm going to be working in a 450-bed psychiatric hospital in Kampala, Uganda," he says. "That opportunity is unbelievable. I was flabbergasted when they offered it to me."

Sask Polytech is eager to expand the program's international education opportunities. A partnership with Ukraine is currently being explored for the near future.

According to Dr. Dyck, as mental health issues increase, more well-prepared professionals and practitioners will be required.

"With the degree program, you gain a greater depth and breadth of knowledge because the program is focused on advanced psychiatric nursing practices. It has a greater focus on research and evidence-based practice and applying that in practice," says Dyck. "It also has a greater focus on management and leadership."

Because of their advanced education and applied experience, graduates like Rowley are in a better position to advocate for patients living with mental illness.

"One of my philosophies in life is that we need to create the future that we want to see," says Rowley. "Being able to teach, I can get down on the student level and help form the nurses who are going to be working with our psychiatric patients in the future, so there's less stigma and a better understanding."

For more information about the Sask Polytech Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing program, visit: