Canada’s healthcare system faces a critical shortage of professionals, affecting both Canadians and newcomers. This results in extended wait times for medical services and, at times, compromises the quality of care provided due to the burden placed on overworked and burned-out healthcare staff. To address this issue, the accreditation process for international nurses in Canada plays a vital role in supplementing the healthcare workforce and improving the overall standard of healthcare services, ultimately mitigating the challenges posed by this shortage.
As of May 2023, Statistics Canada’s most recent job vacancy statistics indicated that the healthcare and social support industries in Canada had about 134,500 open positions. These industries continue to have the highest job vacancy rates despite the fact that the total has progressively decreased from its peak of 151,200 openings in January 2023.
Furthermore, a recent Statistics Canada analysis shows that nurses put in a lot of overtime both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, nurses worked an average of 8.6 hours more per week than their regular schedules, which was a 1.9-hour increase from the 2019 average.
Provincial Licensing Variations
Category-based selection rounds for Express Entry candidates are a recent initiative aimed at addressing Canada’s acute labor shortages and easing the burden on current employees. These people have desirable qualities and are eligible to be ITA under six different categories, one of which is for healthcare professionals.
Even after receiving an ITA and moving to Canada as a healthcare professional, an Express Entry candidate—such as a nurse—must seek certification or licencing in the particular Canadian province of their choosing. The main reason for this is that provinces are in charge of healthcare.
Because healthcare is a provincial industry, each province has a unique accreditation and licensing procedure. The licensure of nurses with international education is handled by the respective nursing colleges or regulatory bodies in each province. As a result, an IEN relocating to a different province at a later time will usually have to go through a different licensing procedure unique to that jurisdiction. This reflects Canada’s decentralized healthcare system, where provincial governments regulate and license healthcare workers, including nurses.
Accreditation process for international nurses in Canada
Internationally educated nurses (IENs) must make contact with a provincial college of nursing as soon as they arrive in Canada. The provincial college of nursing serves as the regulatory authority that oversees nursing regulations. The specific college to contact may change depending on the type of nursing license an IEN needs.
For example, according to the Canadian Nurses Association, there is just one college that oversees all nursing specialties in British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The remaining states and territories, on the other hand, have separate regulatory agencies for every nursing specialization.
Generally speaking, these regulatory agencies require IENs to begin the process of becoming accredited by participating in an evaluation administered by the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). The purpose of this evaluation is to confirm an IEN’s qualifications in relation to Canadian requirements. The NNAS then sends an Advisory Form to IENs, which is an important document that needs to be sent with the application to the appropriate provincial regulatory agency. This first step is crucial to matching the qualifications of an IEN with Canadian nursing standards and making sure they fulfill the requirements to practice in the selected province.
NNAS assessment and provincial licensing
You must submit notarized identity documents as part of the NNAS assessment process. Moreover, you must submit several essential forms, including the Nursing Education Form, Nursing Practice/Employment Form, and Nursing Registration Form.
Usually, you can get these forms through third-party sources. For instance, the educational form needs to be submitted straight from the place of instruction where the applicant obtained their nursing education to NNAS.
It’s crucial to remember that the territories of Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories all have their own unique assessment processes and don’t use the NNAS framework.
Upon completion of the NNAS assessment armaepd payment of the applicable fee, candidates may submit an application to the regulating agency of the particular province in which they plan to practice. They could then need to complete extra coursework or bridge programs to meet the requirements for provincial licensing, which would allow them to work as nurses in that province. This procedure ensures that nurses with international training meet the requirements for safe and efficient practice in the province of their choice.
How are provinces assisting in addressing the issue?
Internationally educated nurses (IENs) have encountered a notable obstacle in the form of the extended time needed to finish the exams, application processes, and necessary training in order to obtain their license.
In response, some provinces have taken steps to expedite the process of accreditation and facilitate the fast integration of qualified nurses into the workforce.
For instance, Nova Scotia established an expedited pathway, especially for IENs coming from seven different nations, in May of this year.
- United Kingdom
- United States
- New Zealand
Upon maintaining a “good standing and good character,” registered nurses from the aforementioned nations will be eligible for immediate registration and licensing in Nova Scotia. Other than passing the national admission exam, they won’t be subject to any other criteria.
In February, Alberta announced an expenditure of over $15 million to enhance the education and support for internationally educated nurses (IENs). Within this funding, $7.8 million has been allocated to enable students to apply for bursaries of up to $30,000. They will use the additional funds to expand nursing bridging program capacity by 600 places across three universities in Alberta.
British Columbia has made the decision to pay the high application and assessment costs for IENs—which frequently surpass $3,700. In the meantime, Ontario has streamlined the procedure for nurses with foreign education by enacting a number of new rules that will take effect in January.
- Mandating health regulatory colleges to adhere to prescribed timeframes for rendering registration decisions.
- Restricting health regulatory colleges from mandating Canadian work experience as a prerequisite for registration, except in specific cases, such as when equivalent international experience is recognized.
- Recognizing language tests approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to minimize redundant language proficiency assessments for newcomers to Canada.
In addition, NNAS has introduced an improved expedited credentialing service for IENs, which will go live on June 28, 2023. Under this service, NNAS will send Advisory Reports after receiving all required paperwork, typically within 5 business days.
This service is available to anyone submitting an application to any of the following regulatory bodies:
- The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba
- The College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan
- The College of Registered Nurses and Midwives of Prince Edward Island (PEI)
- The Nurses Association of New Brunswick
- The Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses
- The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Newfoundland & Labrador
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