Nursing jobs in Canada: information and advice for recent and prospective newcomers to Canada. A special thanks to Suzanne Greaney for providing invaluable personal insights in the creation of this guide on nursing jobs in Canada.

One of the greatest opportunities a Bachelor Degree in Nursing Science will offer you is travel. Nurses have always travelled the world. In recent years Australia, the UAE and the UK have probably become more popular with international nurses. However, as we enter the 2020s, being an international nurse in Canada has become an an increasing attractive proposition.

When I qualified as a nurse in 2013, I never considered looking for nursing jobs in Canada as I knew obtaining my license would involve sitting an exam. So, like lots of other Irish people, I set off for Australia. After one year working there, I decided the distance from home was too much and moved back to Ireland.

Fast forward to 2020 and here I am living in Toronto, in the process of obtaining my nursing license. It has felt like a long road at times but I’m glad that I stuck with it and am about to begin my nursing career in Canada.

Thanks to a relatively robust health care system, Canada is an attractive destination for international candidates seeking to grow their nursing career in Canada. Nurses who are most-highly sought-after include those with specialist skills in emergency departments or operating rooms, and those who wish to work in a remote or isolated indigenous communities.

However, there are some important points job seekers need to be aware of in order to secure nursing jobs in Canada. The first is that your international credentials will need to be assessed, and you’ll need to become licensed to practice in Canada — more on that below. Second, procedures differ from one province or territory to another. This means you should have a destination or two in mind as you complete your research.

Applying for nursing jobs in Canada

So, you’ve got the nursing qualifications from abroad but how can you leverage this training and experience into a fulfilling nursing career in Canada? Let’s find out!

nursing jobs in Canada

The process of becoming a nurse in Canada

The NNAS is the National Nursing Assessment Service for Canada and the US, and this is the first step to getting your license: register with this online service. You can do this prior to arriving in Canada if you wish.

Registration with the NNAS involves completing an online form providing your demographics, education, professional experience for the past five years, and declaring every nursing body you are currently or have previously been registered with.

You will need to apply to the NNAS if you were educated abroad and are seeking nursing jobs in Canada (outside of Quebec and the Territories), in one of the below roles:

  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
  • Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN)

Registration is not cheap. You will need to pay a fee of $765 USD to register with the NNAS (as of 2020). The process involves sending notary-signed copies of your identification documents (passport, birth certificate) and having relevant people from your college, previous employment ,and nursing bodies you are registered with complete the forms provided by NNAS. The website provides video tutorials on how to complete these forms, and you have one year from the date of registering with NNAS to return all documents.

You should be approved by the NNAS once all documents have been returned. However, it should be noted that this can take up to a year. Once approved, you will have permission to apply for licensure in your destination province In Canada.

The NNAS will provide an initial assessment of your credentials and match these to comparable Canadian standards. The NNAS have an online handbook you can use to learn more.

In addition to the NNAS, each province in Canada requires you to sit an English exam, or French if you are hoping to work in Quebec, if you cannot provide proof of fluency in the English language. The NCLEX exam is the test used to determine your English language skills.

In 2021, the Canadian government announced new funding to help foreign nurses with their credential recognition. Learn more about this initiative here.

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What you need to know about the NCLEX

Most provinces and territories will require strong English-language skills in order to practice. In Quebec, knowledge of French is often, though not always, required. You will need to complete an exam to complete the registration process. Outside Quebec, this exam is known as the NCLEX-RN exam, provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) purpose is to ensure you are safe to begin practicing as a nurse. When it comes to nursing jobs in Canada as foreigner, you need to know that every nurse trained in North America needs to pass this exam. It is a computerised, mostly multiple-choice intuitive exam. There are multiple online tutoring options to help prepare it, including UWorld. If you do not pass first time around, you can repeat the exam. Once you pass the NCLEX, it is valid across North America.

It is recommended to complete as much of the application and registration process from your home country as is possible. It is generally easier to obtain documents related to your international credentials from your home country, as you avoid unwanted time differences, international calling rates, and other hassle that can arise when dealing with bureaucracy from abroad.

You can learn more by contacting the relevant regulatory for your province or territory.

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What to do while awaiting your Canadian nursing license?

My advice for an internationally qualified nurse looking to work in Canada is to start networking within the health care setting from the moment you arrive in the country. Update your resume on LinkedIn and Indeed and apply for administration jobs within the health care setting. Once you are working within the field you will get to speak to nurses and doctors of all different specialities and backgrounds, which can greatly help navigate your career path once you have your license.

What to expect from nursing jobs in Canada

Like many health services globally right now, Canada is experiencing health service challenges with lack of public services, staffing shortages, and increased wait times for procedures. As a Registered Nurse (RN) in a public service hospital, you will have higher acuity of patients in your care as hospitals tend to hire more registered practice nurses (RPN) as cost-effective staffing measures.

While the above challenges are present throughout Canada, there is still potential for career development and growth in the public services as well as ample opportunity to work within privately owned practices as well.

So why choose Canada?

Prior to choosing Canada, I thought about nursing in the UK as I know there is huge prospects for career development and education. However, with Brexit at the time I wasn’t sure about it.

I applied to the Middle East and did several remote interviews. I had four years’ experience at that time, and I was offered a tax-free salary of €42,000 (~$62,000CAD), however the standard working week was 48 hours. The nursing license, once granted, would only have allowed me to work in the hospital I was contracted, meaning I would be quite limited. Middle East destinations also typically offer 40 days of annual leave compared to the 15 days standard starting point here as an RN in Canada. However, in the contract I was advised this can’t be taken in the first six months, meaning I would have to work at least a 48-hour week every week for six months straight. When I weighed up the offer, I decided not to take it.

When it comes to nursing jobs in Canada, the country offers a competitive salary for a 36-40 hour working week. In Ontario the new graduate acute care salary is almost $59,000CAD with an annual increment pay increase. This compares very favourably with Ireland, where I am from, where a new graduate starts off on less than €30,000 (~$45,000CAD) per year. The pay varies according to your province, so take the time to research the city and province you will be living in closely before making a final decision.

Another benefit is health coverage, which generally kicks in after three months of living in the country. In addition, you may be able to access extra health care benefits and bonuses with your employer if you choose to work in the private sector.

Having lived in Australia, another huge bonus is that Canada is geographically closer to home for those of us from Ireland, the UK, and the rest of Europe. Although I am still in the process of obtaining my license, I am almost one year into my IEC visa now having moved to Toronto last summer, I have nearly survived my first winter, and I am very happy I chose to relocate to Canada!

Nursing jobs in Canada for international nurses

Review these resources to help you be successful in interviews, and to sharpen your resume (CV) as you apply for jobs for nurses in Canada.

For more, download our free Getting Started Guide to help you plan your move and job search in Canada.

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