In this article, we will talk about the nursing profession and help you understand how to validate your education to work as a nurse in Canada. It is important to mention that anyone who is not a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, must have a work permit to be able to work in the country legally.
Nurses are one of the most demanded professions in Canada. The Canadian Nurses Association – (CNA) predicts that 60,000 nurses will be needed by 2022 in order to fulfill shortages. Nurses are in high demand throughout the country, in both urban and rural areas. Typically, nurses work 8-12 hour shifts and 36-40 hours a week and have an average entry-level salary of CAD$50,000 a year that could go up to CAD$100,000 a year depending on experience.
In Canada, occupations can fall into two types: non-regulated and regulated. For non-regulated occupations, a license or certification is not required, like, for example, in most IT occupations. For regulated occupations, a license or certification is required to work, and in this case, the license or certification will be issued by the provincial or territorial regulatory authority responsible for the occupation. Most healthcare and engineering occupations are regulated, among many others.
Nursing is a regulated occupation in Canada, and to work as a nurse, professionals will need to get their education validated by the regulatory body in the province or territory they intend to work. The title “nurse” can only be used by those professionals who are licensed by the nursing regulatory body. There is no national registration process. Each province and territory has its own regulatory body, assessment process and regulations, to ensure that professionals meet the required standards to work. Since nursing occupations can vary in different countries, the regulatory bodies have a very detailed process to assess professionals that were educated outside Canada.
The nursing profession in Canada includes, among other categories, the Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed / Registered Practical Nurses (LPN/RPN). RNs usually have completed a four-year post-secondary university nursing program and LPNs/RPNs have completed a post-secondary nursing program at the college level, which usually takes two years. In general, in order to be eligible to work as a RN or LPN/RPN, professionals that were educated outside Canada will need to have their education credentials, certification and professional experience assessed as an Internationally Educated Nurse – IEN by the regulatory bodies.
The process for IEN to be certificated in Canada basically includes the following steps:
Step 1: Application with theNational Nursing Assessment Service(NNAS)
Step 2: Application with the provincial regulatory body
Step 3: Pass the exam for the correspondent nursing category
Below is a detailed explanation of each step.
Step 1: Application with the NNAS
The NNAS collects and reviews documents and information to prepare a report to be sent to the provincial regulatory bodies. They will also verify and compare the credentials with the Canadian standards. This step should be done for professionals applying to all provinces, except for Quebec and the Territories, which have their separate evaluation process. The application with NNAS involves sending to them notarized signed copies of identification documentsand have the education institution, previous employments and nursing bodies where the professionals are registered complete the forms and send them directly to NNAS by mail. All documents that are not in English or French must be translated by a certified translator or, for a fee, NNAS will translate.
Todos os documentos que não estejam em inglês ou francês devem ser traduzidos por um tradutor juramentado ou, mediante ao pagamento de uma taxa, o NNAS fará a tradução.
If English or French is not the first language of the applicant, proof of proficiency will also be required with the application. The language proficiency tests accepted by NNAS for English are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS - academic format) and the Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN). For the French language, the test accepted is theTest d’évaluation de français (TEF).
The cost for the application with NNAS is USD$ 650 and the applicant has 12 months to provide all the necessary documents. Since most of the application can be done from outside Canada, it is recommended that the applicant start the application from the country of origin. The reason for that is that it would be easier to obtain documents related to education and credentials while being in the country that they originated. See the NNAS application handbook for more information.
Step 2: Application with the Provincial Regulatory Body
After the NNAS notification that the application and report are complete, professionals can apply to the provincial regulatory body of their choice. Depending on the regulatory body, courses, more documents and assessments can be required, as they each have their own requirements for registration.
There is also a fee for this application of approximately CAD$ 500 for RNs and CAD$ 300 for LPNs / RPNs, but it can vary depending on the regulatory body. More information can be found on the website of the regulatory bodies of each province and territory.
In British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, all categories of nurses are regulated by a single regulatory body. In all other provinces and territories, each nursing category has its own regulatory body.
RNs e LPNs/RPNs: British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals
RNs e LPNs/RPNs: College of Nurses of Ontario
RNs e LPNs/RPNs: Nova Scotia College of Nursing
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
LPNs/RPNs: Government of Nunavut, Department of Health
Step 3: Writing the Exam
Canadian provinces and territories regulatory bodies, with the exception of Quebec, require that RNs write the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) Canadian provinces and territories regulatory bodies, with the exception of Quebec, require that RNs write the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Exam (CPNRE) as the final part of the registration process. The province of Quebec maintains its own registration examination. At present, these exams can only be written in Canada and there are specific dates they can be written. Registration for both exams are done on the Pearson VUEwebsite, board that delivers the exams, and the fee for that is around CAD$ 350 for the NCLEX-RN and for the CPNRE can vary between CAD$ 200-400, depending on the province. There is no limit to the number of times you can write the NCLEX-RN until you pass. For the CPNRE, there is a limit of three chances to successfully complete the exam.
In January 2022, a new exam will be implemented in Ontario and British Columbia for LPNs/RPNs, called REx-PN. One of its new features is that applicants will have no limit on the number of times they can write the exam in order to pass.
Once an applicant has successfully passed the exam and finalized the application with the regulatory body, the applicant is eligible to get the license to work as a nurse in Canada. Each regulatory body has an annual license fee for each nursing category (around CAD$ 300).
There are many organizations funded by the provincial and territorial governments that offer the initial help for internationally educated nurses with all the processes of getting certified and to start working in Canada. In Ontario you can contact CARE – Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses,that even offers help before arriving in Canada.
By Janayna Sercheli