Important Notice: COVID-19 Institute response

Part-time/Distance & Online Learning Advanced Certificate 680wascert


Fall 2020 Delivery Mode: BLENDED

  • This program will be delivered for the fall semester as a combination of online and on-campus learning.
  • Faculty will notify students of when their attendance on campus will be required.
  • We are putting measures in place for your safety and well-being, ensuring that all safety protocols are addressed. Please see BCIT COVID-19 Return to Operations 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.

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.

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.

About the program

  • 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 Program Entry 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.

Program Entry

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.

Entrance requirements

The following are requirements for program entry into Specialty Nursing certificate and degree courses. Enforcement or waiving of any or all entry requirements is at the discretion of the program head.

If you have any questions about your experience or qualifications, please contact the program head to arrange program advising.

English Language Proficiency

Specialty Nursing courses are taught in the English language and require adequate English skills. To review BCIT’s requirements on English Language proficiency, please visit BCIT’s Admission and Registration page on English Requirements.

Work Experience

RNs or undergraduate students currently registered in an accredited RN or BSN program may start their Specialty Nursing Certificate by taking entry level theory courses. Applicants to the more advanced Specialty Nursing Certificate courses may require a minimum of 6 months to 1 year of relevant work experience in an acute care setting and a resume of work experience may be required to progress in the program. If you have questions about whether your work experience qualifies, please contact the program head.

If you are a long term or residential care nurse or an RN lacking current (within the last 2 years) acute care experience, Kwantlen College offers a Competency Assessment and Enhancement for Nurses course that provides a refresher in acute care principles.

This assessment involves an individual self assessment, multiple choice exam and practice simulation. This course may be required for admission in the Specialty Nursing programs. For more information on Kwantlen's offering please visit:

Once you have been assessed, you may be required to complete a tailored curriculum designed to meet BCIT's need for familiarity with acute care principles. This curriculum may include some of the following courses:

Clinical requirements

Note: Effective immediately, all health care workers who come into contact with patients at publicly-funded health care facilities or in the community, including at long-term-care facilities, will have to get the influenza vaccine or wear a mask during flu season. This policy affects all students who will be entering a clinical setting.

As such, you will be required to provide proof of your immunization or agree to wear a mask at all times prior to being placed in your clinical studies.

Basic Cardiac Life Support Certification

All students participating in clinical courses must have current Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Level C or Level Health Care Provider (HCP). The original certificate must be presented upon application to the clinical courses.

CRNBC Registration

As well as providing this information at the time of admission, BCIT requires students to provide proof of CRNBC membership (or Canadian provinvial equivalent) for each clinical course they enroll in. Without proper provincial registration, you will not be permitted to continue in the course.

Face Respirator Fit Testing

A face piece respiratory fit test is required before students are permitted to enter the clinical practicum. Upon successful completion of the fit test, the original certificate must be presented to the program and annual re-fitting is required. Students are expected to carry their certificate with them at all times during their practicum.

Respirator fit testing with a N95 respirator (1860, 1860s or 1870) is required and must be performed in accordance with CSA Standard CAN/CSA-Z94.4-02. Fit testing must also include inspection, cleaning, maintenance, and storage of protective equipment. Students will be given specific instructions in preparation for their fit testing by the provider they choose.

International applicants

International students outside of Canada

International students must be currently working in their nursing specialty area and have a practicing registered nurse’s license in their country to be eligible for this program. All courses are delivered through an online format, so students do not need a study permit.

International students working in Canada

International students who currently hold a work permit and are working in their specialty nursing area with a practicing registered nurse's license are eligible for this program. Students are responsible to maintain a work permit that is valid throughout clinical training. All courses are delivered through an online format, so students do not need a study permit.

International students are required to have a study permit before they attend any in-class courses/exams as part of the program.

Program declaration

Please contact the program assistant to declare this program.

Scheduled intakes

Ongoing Part-time Studies intakes: January, April and September.

Costs & Supplies

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

Tuition fees

Please see the Part-time Studies Tuition & Fees page for information on part-time tuition fees.

Tuition is charged on a course-by-course basis. View the courses in the program matrix for individual course fees.

Books and supplies

Please check the BCIT Bookstore for most current prices.


Program matrix

Check current availability of courses for this program.

Required Courses: Credits
  NSHA 7100 High Acuity Specialty Nursing Theory 1 4.0
  NSCC 7150 Dysrhythmia Interpretation and Management 2.0
  NSHA 7201 High Acuity Specialty Nursing Theory 2 6.0
  NSHA 7300 High Acuity Specialty Nursing Clinical 1 5.0
  NSSC 7115 Teaching and Learning in Specialty Nursing 3.0
  NSHA 7400 High Acuity Specialty Nursing Independent Study 4.0
Total Credits: 24.0

Check current availability of courses for this program.

Transfer credit

Do you have credits from another BC/Yukon post-secondary school? Do you want to know if they transfer to courses here at BCIT? Check out BCIT's Transfer Equivalency Database to find out.

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).

Program length

The length of the program varies, as it is offered in a variety of formats.

BCIT offers theory and clinical courses by part-time, independent study. We deliver theory courses over a 12-week term, using guided-learning modules and email/telephone tutor support. Courses often include teleconferences, which provide opportunities for students and tutors to discuss issues relevant to the course. If you work full-time, you would generally register for one theory course per term, although this can vary depending on your additional commitments.

Through independent study, learn in your own community and structure your learning schedule in a manner that is most convenient for you. Complete full-time clinical courses at clinical sites throughout B.C., over a four week period. If you live outside B.C., you may be able to negotiate clinical placements in your region.

High Acuity Specialty Nursing arranges special programs of courses known as "Compressed time frame programs". Offered in full-time study formats, they enable you to take several courses over a specified period of time. The High Acuity Compressed Time Frame (CTF) consists of a NSHA 7100 taken as a prerequisite via online distance, and NSCC 7150, NSHA 7201 and one required clinical course (NSHA 7300) via full-time 7-week program in greater Vancouver.

If you are interested in this option of study, contact the program head or the program assistant for more information and program start dates. Maximum program length for either the Advanced Certificate or the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree is seven years.

Continue your education

BCIT offers two credential levels in High Acuity Specialty Nursing:

  1. Advanced Certificate
  2. Bachelor of Science in Nursing Specialty Nursing. This program is the only degree of its kind in BC that prepares registered nurses for employment in high acuity units/areas.

The degree program structure is comprised of:

  • Advanced Certificate in High Acuity Nursing Specialty
  • elective courses
  • core and management courses
  • liberal education component

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.

Graduate employment outcomes

The BCIT student outcomes reports present summary findings from the annual survey of former students administered by BC Stats one to two years after graduation. These reports combine the last three years of available results for the 2017-2019 BCIT Outcomes Surveys of 2016-2018 graduates and for Degree 2015-2017 graduates. The reports are organized into three-page summaries containing information on graduates' labour market experiences and opinions regarding their education. More detailed information can be accessed at the BC Student Outcomes website.

To view these results, you may need to have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed in your Web browser.

Faculty, Advisors & Staff

Jean Dehaan
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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As well, if you meet any of the following criteria, please follow the links for more information, instead of sending the form:

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The personal information on this form is collected under the authority of the College and Institute Act (RSBC 1996, Ch.52). BCIT will use this information to communicate with you regarding relevant BCIT programs, courses and services. This information is only used by authorized BCIT staff. Email communication sent to and from BCIT is routed through the United States of America. If you have any questions about BCIT's collection and use of this information, please contact BCIT’s manager of Information Access and Privacy.

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