Looking for a new challenge in your nursing career?

There is currently a shortage of qualified nurses in Canada, so you should find it easy to find a job. Right? Well, maybe!

Although Canada has had a public health system since 1968, there is currently no centralised agency where you can apply for a nursing position. Every province is responsible for its own recruitment, and you must be licensed to practice by the province in which you intend to work.

You will most likely need an offer of employment to qualify for a visa to work in Canada, but the nation’s ongoing nursing shortage means there are generally positions open across the country.

You'll need to sit an exam

You will have to take the Canadian Nurses Registration Exam (CNRE) as part of your licensing process. Currently you have to be resident in Canada to take this paper and must be referred to do so by your relevant association.

Although eight hours long, the CNRE is a multiple choice paper. There are about 300 questions, of which 40% are independent and 60% are based on case studies provided.

You should be aware that you can only sit this exam three times. Study material and online help is provided.

There are three sittings per year, in February, June and October.

Do you meet the criteria?

In order to sit the licencing exam, you must fulfill certain criteria. The actual criteria differ slightly from association to association, so it is best to check with the jurisdiction where you intend to live and work. But, general expectations require that:

  • You have good character and reputation (i.e. no criminal convictions)
  • You are proficient in either of Canada's recognised languages, French or English
  • You have worked at least 1125 hours nursing, completed an approved nursing re-entry programme (e.g. nurses who left to rear children may wish to return to nursing), or have received a recognised qualification in nursing within the last five years.
  • You have completed the ‘application for assessment of internationally qualified nurses’ form, plus paid the fee of approximately CA$210 at date of writing.
  • Have provided your birth certificate and copies of your nursing qualifications.

Psychiatric nurses

If you wish to practice as a psychiatric nurse the situation is slightly different. In Canada, registered nurses often hold the certification in psychiatric/mental health nursing offered by the Canadian Nurses Association. You will need to check your individual situation with the relevant association to ensure your qualifications meet or exceed this requirement. Given the shortage of qualified nursing professionals, the various associations will assist you through the above requirements.


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