CertiNurse.Ca Addressing the Nursing Shortage


Like many internationally educated nurses trying to re-establish their lives and careers here in Canada, Sri Lankan-born Nirasha found it a struggle. “I am a registered nurse from Sri Lanka and I was trying my best to find a job in the health care environment. I needed to get the license from College of Nurses of Ontario to practice as an RN but to pass the exam I needed to know about [the] Canadian nursing license exam. I did not have any idea about how I can get this information.”

It’s a real problem, agrees Yuko, another internationally educated nurse. “I was so happy when I got a permission to write (the) licensing exam … but my happy moment didn’t last long. I soon realized it was only a starting point and I had no idea how I could prepare for the exam. I checked libraries and they didn’t have many books. All the college courses didn’t match with my qualification. I was stuck.”

Yet there’s a desperate need for recent immigrants like Nirasha and Yuko to gain their nursing licenses. Among its many difficulties, the Canadian health-care system is already on the leading edge of a nursing crisis. CNA, the Canadian Nurses Association, predicts the country will be short as many as 113,000 Registered Nurses by the year 2011. One factor in that shortage is the turmoil that has strained the health care field in the last decade. But another factor is simple demographics: almost half of all working nurses today are over 45. Based on an average retirement age of 56, about 1 in 2 current Ontario nurses will have retired by 2013.

Internationally educated nurses like Yuko and Nirasha can certainly help address that shortage and during the past three years the number of such nurses applying for registration in Ontario has doubled. The licensing process is administered by the College of Nurses for each province. It first requires an evaluation of the candidate’s education and language skills, then it requires the candidate pass the same national licensing examination that any nurse must pass.

It’s an intense, high stakes exam and fewer than one in five internationally educated candidates succeed on their first attempt. Many don’t succeed even after repeated attempts. Until last year, candidates were allowed six tries. Now it’s just three.

Happily for Nirasha and Yuko, they were helped by an exciting new service. CertiNurse.Ca is an Internet-based exam-preparation tool that was created by the Centre for Education and Training (CET) working with CarePlus/Corporate Vitality and with support from Human Resources Development Canada. While Canadian educated nurses can use it, the CertiNurse.Ca tool was built specifically to help internationally educated nurses prepare for success on the registration examination.

The program has three main sections: a comprehensive review of the medical knowledge that any nurse anywhere in the world should know; a thorough introduction to the specifics of being a nurse in Canada, and a concise guide to strategies and techniques for success on the registration examination. Among the thirty topics included in the program are Canadian law, expectations for ethics and professional practice, communication and teaching skills, safety and key psycho-social and mental health concepts.

Gladys, an internationally educated nurse from Lebanon, was in the first group of nurses to use the program. She subsequently passed the registration exam on her first attempt. “The most helpful component, as far as I am concerned was the communication and the Canadian cultural interpretation for certain nursing implications. I found these exercises were extremely helpful during the exam. There were replete of questions of that sort and the CertiNurse program gave me lots of hints on how to answer them, for example, dealing with angry patients.”

Yuko adds, “It (CertiNurse.Ca) had plentiful theoretical information and I didn’t need any other text books. The section that I found most helpful was ‘Nursing in Canada’. It explained all the regulations and laws, nursing roles and nursing organizations in Canada, which are different from my country. The whole program was designed to (simulate) an examination, so I could always test my knowledge and find out which area I had to study more. And also in the “exam skills & techniques” section, I could test my speed to see if I was spending too much time on one question. This really helped me on the actual exam.”

The program is extremely easy to use. Eighty percent of the first group of nurses to use the program had little or no computer experience but, like Katrin, they found the program empowering. ” Working through the course took me approximately 1.5 – 2 hours daily for 6 weeks. I loved working on the computer, I loved getting high scores, but mostly I loved feeling that I could theoretically master the exam.”

Early Results are Favorable Between February 2002 and August 2002, 80 internationally educated nurses participated in the CertiNurse.Ca pilot program. Of those participants who have written the RN exam since, 75 per cent have passed – a dramatic improvement.

With that success to show, the CertiNurse.Ca program is now available to any internationally or Canadian educated nurse who wants to improve their likelihood for success on the registration examination.

Before purchasing access, CertiNurse.Ca recommends that internationally educated nurses should have already completed the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) assessment process to verify that their education meets Canadian standards and should have already obtained the College’s permission to write the registration examination. It is also recommended that users have a proven English proficiency (i.e. TOFL or TSE) or have taken a nursing refresher course in English.

For more information on CertiNurse.Ca call 905-949-0049 ext. 2340 or visit the website at www.certinurse.ca.