Nursing in Canada

A Self-Selection Guide for Internationally Educated Nurses

Please Note: Only those who have post-secondary education in nursing can apply for registration/licensure in Canada. Other training or education is not eligible, including nursing courses at a secondary or high school level.

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Introduction

The following information may help you decide which nursing profession is best suited to your interests, education and credentials obtained outside of Canada.

Please read this entire document before you begin your application.

Overview

In Canada, nursing is a profession that includes 3 regulated nursing groups: Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)*, or Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN). 

The title “nurse” can only be used by those professionals who are licensed or registered by the nursing regulatory body, college or association in one of the Canadian provinces where they intend to work. 

Each province and territory has its own regulations. This allows them to protect public health and safety.  It also ensures that nurses meet the required standards.

There is no national registration/licensure process for nurses in Canada. Each province has its own regulatory body and assessment process. 

* referred to as Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario

Registered Nurse (RN)

RNs usually complete a four year post-secondary university nursing program to become a generalist registered nurse. The program contains theory and clinical instruction in medical and surgical nursing. It includes in-depth study of concepts, such as:

  • humanities, 
  • nursing theory, 
  • physical and biological sciences, 
  • primary health, 
  • professional ethics, 
  • social and behavioural sciences, and
  • therapeutic relationships. 

The program prepares the RN to give direct care and to take on the role of coordinating care for individuals, families, groups, communities and populations in a variety of health care setting and with a variety of health professionals. Clinical instruction prepares the RN to take a leadership role when the care requirements become more complex.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)* or Registered Practical Nurse in Ontario

LPNs complete a post-secondary nursing program at the college level that is usually takes two years. The program for generalist LPNs contains nursing theory and clinical instruction in both medical and surgical nursing. Their education is based on nursing theory, and they study:

  • physical and biological sciences, 
  • professional ethics 
  • psychology, and
  • therapeutic relationships. 

LPNs provide and coordinate care for individuals, families, and groups in a variety of settings and with a variety of health professionals. They can work with clients of varying complexity, recognizing when consultation and collaboration with other health professionals is required.

Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN) 

RPNs complete a 2 ½  to 4 year psychiatric nursing education program at a college or university. The program contains theory and clinical instruction in psychiatric and general nursing. It offers in-depth study in:

  • behavioural and social sciences
  • biological and physical sciences 
  • general nursing
  • humanities
  • professional ethics
  • psychiatric nursing theory and interventions
  • theory and clinical hours* 
  • therapeutic relationships

RPNs provide care for clients with complex psychosocial, mental health and physical needs. They coordinate care for individuals, families, groups, communities and populations in a variety of health care settings, with a variety of health care professionals.

* defined in the Guidelines for Education Assessment of Internationally Educated Psychiatric Nurses, found here.

NOTE: RPNs are regulated to practise only in four Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – and in the Yukon Territory.

Conclusion

After reviewing these requirements for nursing careers in Canada, you may be eligible to apply for registration/licensure as an RN, LPN or RPN. For registration/licensure in any of the three nursing groups, you may require further education and/or assessment of your nursing knowledge.    

To apply for registration/ licensure, click link below.