Registered 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 Registered Nurses and what do they do?

Registered nurses (RNs) are one of three regulated nursing professions in Canada, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The title, Registered Nurse, is protected so you must hold a license to practise as a registered nurse in the province or territory where you wish to work before you can be employed.

An RN’s opportunities for work are broad throughout a variety of environments such as hospitals, clinics, institutions and the community. In general, they provide and/or supervise provision of direct care to their patients so the patients can experience optimal health throughout the patient’s life span.  With additional training and experience, RNs may elect to specialize in one area of patient care such as surgery, obstetrics, psychiatric care, critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, community health, occupational health, emergency care, rehabilitation and oncology.  RNs with further education are employed in the fields of education, administration, research and policy.

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

Men or women who wish to become RNs in Canada must complete an accredited 4 year undergraduate degree in nursing and successfully pass the National Licensure Exam for Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).  Then, they must apply to the provincial or territorial regulatory authority for a license to practise before they can be employed.

Nursing is a career of life -long learning. Through mandatory continuing education, RNs maintain their professional competency. Many choose to study further to work in specialized fields. Others earn postgraduate level degrees

Can I work if I was trained outside of Canada?

All regulators (except Quebec) require internationally trained nurses (IENs) to apply for assessment through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). The service will assess your credentials to determine whether your skills match those required to work in Canada. They will also assess your English or French language ability if you were trained in another language. There is a fee for this assessment and the process can be lengthy. Academic upgrading or “bridging” programs may be available but entrance to these may be competitive resulting in further delays to licensure.

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

Before you decide to come, view the Self Assessment Readiness Tool™ for Registered Nurses 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 check against the national competencies and information about the registration process. The Self Assessment Readiness Tool™ for Licensed Practical Nurses may be of interest to you, as well. Licensed Practical Nursing is a regulated profession in Canada too but the training and scope of practice are different. You may find that your skills are a better match to those of an LPN in Canada.

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 an 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”, allows 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, and/or educators and profession experts. They recognize many of the skills and abilities you already have.

Consider one or more of these options. Click on each title to open a career fact sheet. References and links.