Most people ask the question "how to become a nurse" when they start planning their career path in high school.
You may not be aware that there are three different types of nursing in Canada and each one has different education requirement ranging from college diploma to university degree. So when you try to explore how to become a nurse you must know the type of nurse you want to be.
1. First decide what kind of nurse you want to be.
- registered nursing. A registered nurse can practice with clients of all age groups and with all types of health challenges of varying degrees of complexities. A registered nurse can practice in a variety of settings including the community, mental health settings and residential settings. Of the three types of nursing in Canada the registered nurse has the broadest scope of practice.
- registered psychiatric nursing. A registered psychiatric nurse has a narrower scope of practice than a registered nurse and is restricted to practicing psychiatric nursing. That is they provide mental health nursing care to a wide variety of clients and in a wide variety of settings. Psychiatric nursing is not a recognized type of nursing in all of Canada. It is only recognized in the western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia)
- licensed practical nursing. The licensed practical nurse has the narrowest scope of practice of the three types of nursing. In some provinces a licensed practical nurse must work under the supervision of a registered nurse and in other provinces the scope of practice is restricted to working as an assistant to the registered nurse, and is some other provinces the licensed practical nurse is fully autonomous and does not require supervision although the scope of practice is narrower that for either of the registered nursing professions.
While the scope of practice and types of clients will vary for each of these types of nursing they are all legally defined as part of the nursing profession. Which one of these descriptions appeals to you? Your choice may depend on your preference for future career paths as well as your preference for autonomous practice. More career options are provided by the registered nurse or registered psychiatric nurse designation.
2. Make sure you have the correct high school prerequisites.
Registered Nurse Education
A university degree is required to practice as a registered nurse in Canada in all provinces. You will need to meet the university entrance requirements as well as the specific requirement for the nursing program.
Registered nurse education programs in Canada require basic preparation in:
- math usually at the Grade 11 level
- sciences - both a chemistry and a biological science will be required. Usually the chemistry course is a preparatory course such as a grade 11 level and the biological science must be at a higher level such as a grade 12 level
- English - admission to a nursing program will require completion of English at a grade 12 level.
Registered psychiatric nursingBoth degree and diploma nurse education programs are available in Canada if you want to enroll in a psychiatric nursing program. There are three psychiatric nursing programs in Canada that lead to a baccalaureate degree. All other psychiatric nursing programs lead to a college diploma. Even though there is no requirement for a university degree you can expect the entrance requirements to be the same as for a registered nurse education program.
Licensed Practical Nurse Education
Licensed practical nurse education programs may not have the same entrance criteria as registered nursing since they are not university degree programs.
Education programs range from one year in length in British Columbia to two years in Alberta and Ontario. Because of the national variation in the role of the LPN and the length of the education required there may be significant variations in entrance requirements, however, you can expect entrance requirements to reflect a mastery of basic math and English. Some programs will also require biology as a prerequisite.
3. Select your University or College nursing program
All nurse education programs in Canada take place in post secondary education institutions. There are no hospital based programs in existence so you must attend at a university or college. Some colleges have partnered with universities making it easier to take the courses for the first first two years of a nursing program at a college and then complete the nursing degree at a university. Many nursing programs have wait lists so be sure to submit your application as early as you can.
4. Complete the Canadian nursing entrance test.
All types of nursing are regulated in Canada and once you graduate from your nursing education program you will be required to pass a national exam before you can obtain your nursing license. All nurses in Canada write the same national exam so once you have your license in one province it is easy to move between provinces without having to retake the exam.
So here is the summary of how to become a nurse in Canada:
- decide on what type of nurse you want to be
- complete the necessary high school credits
- find a nursing education program in a college or university.
- complete the Canadian national nursing entrance test to obtain your nursing license.
So now that you know how to become a nurse in Canada isn't it time you got started? There is an acute nursing shortage in the country and you will never be without work!