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High acuity applies the foundational medical-surgical nursing skills you learn as a registered nurse (RN) to an acute care setting. A niche area of patient care, high acuity nurses work in inpatient units supporting acutely ill adults with multiple health challenges. No two patients are the same and each requires individualized care. We prepare you to succeed in this challenging nursing specialty.

Program delivery mode: blended

  • This program will be delivered for the coming semester as a combination of online and on-campus learning. While some of your coursework will take place online, there will also be in-person sessions.
  • Faculty will notify students of when their attendance on campus will be required.
  • We have put measures in place for your safety and well-being, ensuring that all safety protocols are addressed. Please see the BCIT COVID-19 page for details on the mandatory procedures that have been implemented.

Your education is our priority and we will continue to deliver the applied instruction, collaborative experience, and industry connections that you expect from BCIT.

About the program

BCIT offers the only high acuity certification program in Canada to meet the needs of this growing nursing specialty. Our committed and experienced faculty ensure that you have the skills to offer the best health care possible to patients.

  • Part-time, advanced certificate program that takes an average of two years to complete
  • Distance and online learning provides flexibility to learn concurrently as you work
  • Take courses that you can take as you need them or complete the full certificate program
  • One clinical experience and one independent study

Our High Acuity nursing program has a demanding course load. See Program Details for more information.

Who it’s for

This program is for individuals who:

  • Are practicing registered nurses (RNs) wanting an advanced high acuity nursing certification, or to complete their specialty Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in high acuity nursing
  • Have one year or more relevant work experience in an acute care setting
  • Enjoy working with patients who have multiple health challenges in an acute care, inpatient setting

Additionally, undergraduate nursing students currently completing an accredited BSN program can take the foundational theory course.

Interested in learning more about our high acuity nursing specialty? Visit Entrance Requirements to see if our program is right for you.

Your work experience matters

At BCIT, we value your work experience. If you’ve been working as a high acuity or a medical-surgical nurse, take advantage of our Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) process and fast track your advanced certification education.

What grads can do

We prepare you for work as you take your medical-surgical nursing skills to the next level. See Graduating and Jobs to learn more about career options.

Entrance Requirements

Nurses interested in the High Acuity program should have a minimum of six months (preferably one year) of recent experience on an acute care unit. For interested nurses from international practice, residential or other areas of care, a refresher course in acute care may be required. BCIT recommends the following programs:

Please contact one of the institutions above, as well as the High Acuity program at BCIT, to determine an appropriate preparatory course of study. Also check out Acute Care Requirements for Specialty Nursing for more information.

Costs & Supplies

Face respirator fit testing – approx $25 per year; annual re-fitting required.


Program Details

The High Acuity program has been designed for RNs practicing in acute care who are ready to expand their practice. High acuity nursing involves caring for acutely ill adults who require hospitalization for complex health disorders and invasive medical and/or surgical treatment regimens. In order to adequately care for these patients, nurses need extensive nursing knowledge and skills. The High Acuity Specialty Nursing program meets this need by providing registered nurses with evidenced based knowledge and training to expertly recognize, intervene, and manage acute changes in the complex conditions of the patients in their care.

As a high acuity nurse, advanced knowledge and skill lead to improved levels of performance, self-esteem and job satisfaction. The process of completing the High Acuity Specialty Nursing Advanced Certificate provides participants with professional credibility for the knowledge gained through an academic credential.

The program

The nature of the High Acuity Specialty Nursing program is to build on and expand registered nurses’ knowledge and skills to care for the more acutely ill patients in High Acuity units. The program has been developed using the current Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree curriculum as a framework.

Theory courses expand the learners’ abilities to think critically and engage in participatory relationships to promote health for high acuity patients/families. The students explore the patient’s experience of an acute illness while applying theoretical frameworks (i.e. oxygen supply & demand, comprehensive assessment and ethical clinical decision making) while exploring complex, acute, and often co-existing chronic illnesses such as: myocardial ischemia, heart failure (chronic and acute), hemodynamic instability in the AAA surgical patient, COPD, diabetes, renal insufficiency, alterations in cerebral oxygen supply and demand, and systemic inflammatory response syndrome and the septic continuum within the high acuity environment.

Dysrhythmia monitoring & management explores essential knowledge associated with electrophysiology and conduction. Through application of theory students will engage in the systematic process of dysrhythmia analysis, interpretation and management.

Clinical 1 provides students with opportunities to develop proficiency at a beginner?s level in caring for complex high acuity patients in a variety of settings. Through application of previous theory, students are engaged in critical thinking to determine clinical priorities and demonstrate understanding of the in-depth knowledge and skill required to care for acutely ill patients and families in crisis.

The independent study course is flexible and designed to meet the individual learning needs of the student. The course is a combination of theory and clinical that will focus within the practice area that uniquely interests the student and their chosen career path.

Students interested in completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Specialty Nursing should apply for the BSN degree by the end of their clinical experience. In addition, interested BSN students will be required to complete an additional 5 credits of specialty electives (for further information and approval of electives, please consult the program head).


Graduating & Jobs

Our grads are ready

BCIT’s High Acuity nursing program is targeted to specifically meet the needs of this specialized area of patient care. Apply our program theory to your existing workplace or get the expertise to move into a high acuity nursing career.

Career opportunities

Choose to work in general high acuity care or specialize in high acuity units such as cardiac, respiratory, or trauma. Positions are commonly found in hospitals, with salaries starting at approximately $32 per hour. Work opportunities can also be found in patient care units, including:

  • Private clinics
  • Step down
  • Special care
  • Maximum care
  • Progressive care
  • High dependency
  • Enhanced care

Keep learning

Looking to get your BSN? Use your advanced certificate toward completing our Bachelor of Science, Specialty Nursing degree.

Beginning in 2018, BCIT Specialty Nursing Advanced Certificate Graduates can apply to receive transfer credits towards the online, two-year UVIC Master of Nursing program. Applicants can chose from the Advanced Practice Leadership of Nurse Educator options.

Health Match BC

Health Match BC is a new service that helps recent specialty nursing graduates find work within BC. Funded by the provincial government, Health Match BC prioritizes the hiring of BC nursing graduates. For more information, download the Health Match BC [PDF].

Faculty, Advisors & Staff

Jean Dehaan, RN, BSN
Program Head
Toll-free: 800-663-6542 x 8911

Stephanie Wood
Program Assistant
Toll-free: 800-663-6542 x 2230

Contact Us

Stephanie Wood
Program Assistant
Toll-free: 800-663-6542 x 2230

Questions or comments?


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