Licensed Practical Nurses

You, like many healthcare professionals, may be challenged to find work in your profession when you first arrive in Canada.  The healthcare job market is very competitive and you must hold a valid license to practise in a regulated profession before you can work. The application process to assess your credentials, work experience and language proficiency can be expensive and lengthy.  It is especially so if you require additional language training or academic upgrading.  Consider a related career or “career option”.

If you decide that your skills do not align with your primary career of choice, the Health Career Options Guide provides information about career alternatives.

These career options may allow you to find meaningful employment in Canada.

*Note: Healthcare professions are not static.  They evolve as new technology, research findings and care models affect the delivery of healthcare.  The scope of practice of each professional is subject to change.  Changes may demand further education, certification and possible licensure for assistive levels.  Users of this guide should know that the qualifications listed for some of these career options may change.

Who are Licensed Practical Nurses and what do they do?

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are one of three professions of nursing in Canada, registered nurses (RNs), registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).  All three are regulated professions and their titles are protected. You must hold a license to practise the profession in the province or territory where you wish to work before you can be employed.

LPNs, as members of a health care team, provide nursing care to patients within their scope of practice in a variety of settings.  These include hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, rehabilitation centres, doctors’ offices, clinics, companies, private homes and community health centres. LPNs often work under the direction of registered nurses or other medical practitioners. (Note that LPNs are known as Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) in Ontario).

What are the minimum or “entry to practice” requirements for this profession in Canada?

Candidates for this profession have completed a diploma program in an accredited college.  They must successfully pass the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPNRE) and register for a license to practise with the provincial or territorial regulatory authority where they wish to work. Only then are they ready to be employed.  (Note that the application process is different in Quebec)

Nursing is a career of life-long learning.  LPNs participate in continuing education courses to maintain their professional competency.  They may also undertake further study to earn a BSc. in Nursing.  

Can I work if I was trained outside of Canada?

All provincial regulatory bodies (except Quebec) require internationally educated nurses (IENs) to register for assessment with the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) before they can apply for a license from the regulatory body.  NNAS will assess your credentials, work experience, and English or French language ability if your training was completed in another language.  Then, your file is sent to the regulatory body for the province(s) where you wish to work.  There is a fee for these assessments and the process can be lengthy.  Academic upgrading programs may be available but there is often a wait list for these programs. Not all IENs who apply for licensure are successful. Rates of success vary depending on the applicant’s education in the country of origin, language ability and available bridging programs. View the data table below to learn the successful licensure rates of IENs who applied to the province of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 2015-2016.


Can I plan for my professional life in Canada before I arrive?

Before you decide to come, view the Self Assessment Readiness Tool™ for Licensed Practical Nurse  to compare your knowledge and skills against those required to work in this field. The tool offers case scenarios, examples of daily practice, a self assessment checklist against the national professional competencies and information about the registration process.

The Job Search Process in Canada: Ten Steps Tool describes the skills and processes you will need to find a job.  It describes language assessment, resume writing, interview skills, and the role of volunteering and finding a mentor.

Settlement agencies in Canada provide many services for newcomers.  These include both pre-arrival and post arrival information about language assessment and classes, career preparation, job search and other general information.  Click here to find a settlement agency in the area where you plan to settle.

What should I do if I can’t find work in my field?  Do I have options?

Yes, you have many options.  The job market fluctuates for many professions so the demand for trained specialists is never constant.  Many Canadians, who were trained for one career, may work in a number of related fields before they retire.  For example, a physician may write healthcare policy, a nurse may work as a private healthcare consultant or a bilingual occupational therapist may translate health related documents as a full time career.  They transfer their skills and experiences from one career to another.  A career option, or an “alternative career”, may allow you to focus your skills, abilities and work experiences in a different direction.  Ideally, you might choose a new career with fewer restrictions such as one that does not require a license, certification or extensive retraining.

If your skills and abilities do not meet the Canadian standards, consider one of the following career options. You can work in this new field temporarily while you upgrade your education or language skills, or longer if the work is satisfying to you.  These options were identified through consultation with regulators, the professional association, educators and/or profession experts. They recognize many of the skills and abilities you already have.

Consider one or more of these options. Click on each link for more information. References and links.