5 things you must know before studying Nursing in Canada

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The prospect of studying nursing abroad excites a lot of us, and rightly so. The idea of living in a developed country with better infrastructure, high quality of life and better healthcare is a very practical decision that most of us are attracted to take. But being far away from home can be very lonely if we don’t have the right support system. Also, culture shock can be the worst and the best thing that can happen to a person living abroad. Unlike other cultures, the values of the Indian culture are ingrained in us since childhood. Most of us live with our parents all our lives and hence, the experience of moving to a foreign country can be very exciting yet tricky at the same time. While a lot of foreign students adjust well to their new life and routine, there are some who find it extremely difficult and eventually decide to head back home.

Nursing study abroad

If you’re an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) who is planning to study nursing abroad, then it is extremely important for you to do proper research before moving to the country of your choice. If you are planning to study nursing in Canada, then there are a few things we have listed for you to know:

  1. Initial Stages
  2. Being an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) from India, the first few weeks are very exciting as you land in Canada. The first stage is usually very positive, and one tends to focus on the similarities between the Indian and the Canadian culture. The environment is different when compared to India but as a foreign student, one finds it very thrilling and naturally, wants to explore more. The second stage includes feelings of disappointment and frustration, often leading an individual to have very confused feelings about the new culture. This generally happens after six months of living in Canada as you feel the several highs and lows of leaving home. The feeling of loneliness can sometimes overpower you and one might begin to have negative feelings towards the host country. This gradually gets better as you enter the third stage, which is related to adjustment. As one starts participating more with the immediate community members and begins to meet familiar people regularly, one tends to express more and focus better on more important things. Eventually, there is the last stage of acceptance, the fourth stage, where one follows a routine and has a support system in the form of friends/colleagues. This stage also initiates the integration of feelings attached to the new country, which also makes one feel comfortable and confident.

  3. Awareness
  4. As a nursing student, it is very important for you to have awareness about certain things in Canada. Initially, you should know the nursing education you obtained in India will not be enough for you to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) in Canada. The process of becoming an RN in Canada includes a lot of paperwork. This is done in the form of filling out forms, taking several examinations and then applying to the respective provincial nursing regulatory body. Every province has its own set of rules and regulations, and hence, you should know about all the rules that govern your province.


    Upon the successful completion of your education in Canada, you must take the NCLEX-RN, which stands for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. This exam is mandatory for all nurses who want to practice as an RN in Canada and is only meant for students who hold an accredited degree/diploma in nursing in their respective countries. Before applying for this exam, you must make an application to a province/territory where you want to apply. After successfully clearing this exam, you can practice as an entry level RN in Canada. Every nursing graduate must preferably write this exam as soon as they graduate because at that time you are accustomed to the idea of devoting time to studies and it is convenient to be in the right state of mind for this exam. With the right preparation, this exam can be cleared in one go.


    Before you can take the NCLEX, you must create an online account with the National Nurses Assessment Service (NNAS), which is an organization that provides a streamlined process for Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) to submit their documents and provides them with tools to apply for nursing registration in Canada. Through the account you create, the NNAS will communicate with you and guide you through the process. Once your account is created, you must submit your identity proofs and two forms of identification. These forms should be notarized, and copies of original documents must be signed, dated and stamped along with your signature.

    The next step is to submit your language testing results which proves you can read, write, speak and listen in English. You must meet the minimum eligibility criteria for the tests and your language results should be no older than six months at the time you apply to NNAS. The NNAS then sends an advisory report to the regulating authority of your province. For example, if you’re applying in the province of Ontario, then the NNAS will send the advisory report to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), which is the main regulatory body for the province. Once you receive the advisory report, you will then receive instructions about how to contact your college with your request to register in that province. The college will only consider you as an applicant for registration once you complete the process of the NNAS and submit the required application along with the fee(s) directly to the college.

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  5. Clinical Differences in Nursing
  6. The healthcare systems of India and Canada are founded on different principles and continue to be shaped by social factors, economic influences, demographics of population and healthcare policies. With some visibly large differences in the healthcare setups of both countries, you need to know how to maneuver your way through when you become a part of the Canadian healthcare system. While Canada rests heavily on its public sector for healthcare, around 80% of Indians rely on its private sector. This is largely due to the skepticism over the public sector and the major task it faces to accommodate many people owing to the huge Indian population. While IENs bring diverse education and professional experience to Canada, only 17.5% of foreign born or educated nurses in Ontario are working at or above their skill level, compared to 64% Canadian born and educated nurses, as per a report by the Ontario office of the fairness commissioner. According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), only 7.2% of the Canadian regulated nursing workforce comprise IENs, which is a surprisingly low figure.

    As a nurse, you need to know the differences in the nursing practices of both countries as Indian practices of nursing do not apply in Canada. As the Indian healthcare system struggles with optimizing its services and gaining trust in the public sector, Canada’s expensive system struggles with providing stability and meeting the needs of its ageing population. The two setups are different with different priorities and methods of practice. For you to successfully practice as an RN in Canada, you should know all the effective practice methods according to your province/territory. For example, if you want to practice as an RN in Canada, then you should go through all the best practice guidelines and tools listed by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) for the same. The RNAO has made a list of databases available for all IENs to go through which will not only improve your effectiveness on clinical/patient outcomes but will also help you to overcome various challenges stemming from the differences in the clinical setups of both India and Canada.

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  7. Choosing the right program
  8. As an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN), it is very important to choose the right nursing program based on your previous nursing education and competencies. Not only does it decide your future in Canada, but it also makes sure you study relevant topics and modules that can enhance your knowledge and foundational nursing skills in your specialized area. If you are planning to study nursing in Canada, you can choose from the following graduate certificate courses:

    Palliative Care Nursing:

    A graduate certificate course in Palliative Care aims to impart knowledge and training to Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) who are willing to cater to patients with life-limiting diseases. Terminally ill patients are the prime focus in this program and nurses are looked at as an important source of strength, given the situation of the patients. During this program, nurses are trained to collaborate as a multi-discipline team member to provide support to patients and establish close relations with their family members as well. Nurses must make sure that all doctors are on the same page and are well coordinated for the well-being of the patient. The Palliative Care team understands the personal goals of the patient completely and treats terminally ill patients with diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Congestive Heart Failure, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. The duration of this program is one academic year.

    Community Mental Health:

    Community Mental Health is a specialized area and during this graduate certificate program, nurses are educated about the current mental health issues and trends in Canada. Enhancing the knowledge and skill of mental health care providers is an important aspect of this program. Nurses are trained to rehabilitate long term mental patients in the community under this program along with providing optimal care to clients with diverse mental health disorders. The duration of this program is one academic year.


    If you’re an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) who wants to study nursing abroad and serve the ageing community in a country like Canada, then a graduate certificate program in Gerontology is the best option for you. During this course, you will study ageing and the multi-faceted problems of the older population. This program is not for meant everyone in healthcare but only for specific foreign nurses who want to explore the ageing demographic. It is a multi-discipline study, the duration for which is one academic year.

    Nursing Leadership and Management:

    A graduate certificate program in Nursing Leadership and Management is meant for those nurses who are currently employed or wish to be employed in leadership and management roles within healthcare settings. This program builds on foundational roles and management content, preparing nurses to assume the roles of nurse administrators and nurse managers. The duration of this course is also, one academic year. A similar program, Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Leadership and Management is also offered in Ontario where imparting administrative and leadership skills is the prime focus so that nurses could land up in managerial roles in a healthcare setup.

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  9. Benefits of becoming an RN
  10. If you’re planning to study nursing in Canada, then one important aspect is to understand the benefits of the profession in the country. The dependency on the healthcare sector is high in Canada and that is why the country is accepting International nursing students from all over the world. Let’s discuss a few points to help you understand the benefits of becoming an RN in Canada:

    Better Pay Scale:

    Given the fact that the Canadian healthcare system is unrivalled and is amongst the best in the world, the pay scale for nursing also complements the profession completely. Owing to the shortage of nurses in the country, nursing has become one of the most sought-after professions in Canada that fetches decent remunerations. The pay scales may vary as per the disciplines of your expertise but financially it is viable to be employed in the Canadian nursing sector.

    Job Security:

    This is the right time for Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) to study nursing in Canada as the country is facing an acute shortage of nurses. If this gap is not filled, then it might lead to a serious lack in the Canadian healthcare services. Therefore, nurses who study postgraduate programs in their respective specializations have secure jobs which is a basic pre-requisite for every foreign nurse.

    Leadership Skills:

    Nurses are looked at as pillars of strength in any healthcare setting. They make sure all doctors are well coordinated and decisions are taken in the best interest of the patients. Nurses have an enhanced sense of responsibility when dealing with patients who have life-limiting illnesses. Also, dealing with patients from all walks of life builds your leadership skills and enables you to be more empathetic, which is beneficial for any individual, both professionally and personally.

    Mental Satisfaction:

    Nursing has a very noble history attached to it. It is a calling for those individuals who are dedicated to serve others and address the needs of those who are not in a sound physical or mental state. It is more than just a profession and is held in high regard all over the world. Along with handsome financial gains, nursing also offers instant gratification and a mental satisfaction to people who empathize with individuals who are suffering in one form or the other. With a sense of responsibility comes the willingness to serve the society, and that alone is a big factor why some individuals choose this profession.

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