Obtaining accreditation as a nurse with international education in Canada
Obtaining accreditation as a nurse with international education in Canada
Canada is currently grappling with a shortage of healthcare professionals, which has significant implications for both Canadians and newcomers. The shortage results in extended waiting times for medical care and, at times, care that falls short of professional standards due to the strain on overworked and burnt-out healthcare staff.
According to recent job vacancy data from Statistics Canada, as of May 2023, there were 134,500 unfilled positions within Canada’s healthcare and social assistance sectors. Although this figure reflects a gradual decline in job vacancies since reaching a peak of 151,200 in January 2023, the healthcare sector still maintains the highest rate of job openings.
Statistics Canada also released a study highlighting the challenges faced by nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic and into 2022. The study revealed that nurses who worked overtime in 2022 exceeded their regular schedules by an average of 8.6 additional hours per week. This represents an increase of 1.9 hours when compared to the average in 2019.
Canada has implemented various measures to address urgent workforce shortages and alleviate the burden on existing workers. One recent initiative is the introduction of category-based selection rounds for Express Entry candidates. Under this system, there are six categories that cater to Express Entry candidates with specific in-demand attributes, including one dedicated to healthcare professionals.
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However, even if a healthcare professional, such as a nurse, receives an Invitation to Apply (ITA) through Express Entry and arrives in Canada, they are required to obtain accreditation or a license in the Canadian province where they intend to settle. This necessity arises from the fact that healthcare falls under provincial jurisdiction in Canada.
Given the provincial responsibility for healthcare, the licensing and accreditation procedures can vary from one province to another. Each province has its own nursing college that oversees the licensing process for internationally educated nurses (IENs). If an IEN decides to relocate to a different province at a later stage, they will typically need to undergo a separate licensing procedure in the new province.
Commencing the accreditation process in Canada involves several steps that internationally educated nurses (IENs) should follow:
- Contacting the Provincial College of Nursing: Once an IEN arrives in Canada, they must reach out to the provincial college of nursing in the province where they intend to practice. The provincial college serves as the regulatory body for nursing. The specific college to contact can vary depending on the type of nursing license required. In some provinces like British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, a single college regulates all categories of nurses, while in other provinces and territories, each nursing category has its own regulatory body. Information about these colleges can usually be found on their respective websites.
- National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS): In most cases, these provincial colleges require IENs to begin their accreditation journey by undergoing an assessment through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). The NNAS assessment verifies the IEN’s credentials in comparison with Canadian standards. As part of this assessment, IENs will receive an Advisory Form, which must be included with their application to the provincial regulatory body.
- Required Documents for NNAS Assessment: To complete the NNAS assessment, IENs will typically need to provide notarized identity documents, a Nursing Education Form, Nursing Practice/Employment Form, and Nursing Registration Form. These forms are often sent by third parties. For instance, the education form is usually sent directly to NNAS from the educational institution where the IEN received their nursing education.
- Quebec and Territories: It’s important to note that Quebec and the territories of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon have their own individual assessment methods and do not utilize the NNAS system. IENs planning to practice in these regions should refer to the specific guidelines and requirements provided by the regulatory bodies in these areas.
The process can be complex and may vary by province, so it’s essential for internationally educated nurses to consult the respective provincial college of nursing and follow their guidelines to ensure a smooth accreditation process and the ability to practice nursing in Canada.
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Once the fee for the assessment is paid, and the assessment is successfully completed, the next step involves applying to the provincial regulatory body in the province where an internationally educated nurse (IEN) plans to practice. At this stage, IENs may need to fulfill any necessary educational or bridging programs to meet the specific licensing requirements of the province.
To facilitate the accreditation process and support IENs, some provinces in Canada have implemented measures aimed at expediting the process and ensuring that qualified nurses can begin working more quickly. These measures are particularly beneficial in reducing the time required to complete assessments, applications, and any additional coursework or requirements for licensure.
For example, in May of this year, Nova Scotia introduced a streamlined approach for IENs from seven countries, including:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
Registered nurses from these countries who are in “good standing and good character” are now eligible for registration and licensing in Nova Scotia without the need for additional requirements, except for passing the national entrance exam. This initiative aims to fast-track the licensure process for qualified nurses and enable them to start working in Nova Scotia more expeditiously.
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Canadian provinces have been taking various initiatives and investing in programs to support internationally educated nurses (IENs) as they navigate the accreditation process and contribute to the healthcare workforce. Here are some examples of measures and investments in different provinces:
- Alberta: In February, Alberta announced an investment of over $15 million to train and support IENs. This funding includes $7.8 million for students to access bursaries of up to $30,000. Additionally, a portion of the investment will be used to create 600 new seats for nurse bridging programs in three Alberta universities.
- British Columbia: British Columbia has taken steps to cover application and assessment fees for IENs. These fees can be substantial, often exceeding $3,700. By covering these costs, the province aims to reduce financial barriers for internationally educated nurses seeking accreditation.
- Ontario: Ontario introduced new rules in January to streamline the registration process for IENs. These rules include requiring health regulatory colleges to adhere to time limits for making registration decisions, eliminating the requirement for Canadian work experience in most cases, and accepting language tests approved under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to reduce redundant language proficiency testing for newcomers to Canada.
- NNAS Expedited Credentialing Service: As of June 28, 2023, the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) introduced a new expedited credentialing service for IENs. This service ensures that NNAS Advisory Reports are released within five business days of receiving all necessary documents. IENs applying to specific regulatory bodies, including those in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland & Labrador, are eligible for this expedited service.
These initiatives and investments demonstrate Canada’s commitment to addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals and streamlining the accreditation process for internationally educated nurses, making it more accessible and efficient for those seeking to contribute their skills to the Canadian healthcare system.
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