Fiji's School of Nursing is expanding in an effort to attract students from rural areas and to cope with a vacuum of skilled nurses in the health service.
Director of the Nursing School, Albert McLaren, says losing locally trained nurses to higher paying jobs overseas is part of an international trend in health worceforce migration.
He also says seven per cent of nurses left the profession when the retirement age was reset at 55, leaving Fiji with about 120 vacant nursing jobs per year.
Mr McLaren says the biggest challenge now is making sure the nursing graduates are competent and can think broadly to meet the growing health demands of society.
"Not only the curative perspective, but also the preventative and the health promotion perspective. That we support Government in nurturing the population to health, from womb to tomb, across the lifespan."
Mr McLaren says last week the School of Nursing became part of the Fiji National University, previously it was run by the Health Ministry.
Twenty extra places are open this year meaning 140 student nurses will begin the three year training programme in February.
A private nursing school trains thirty nurses annually meaning a total of 170 new nurses per year.
Mr McLaren says even though the number of nurses admitted per region is set by Cabinet the academic and personal entry criteria remain robust.