Canadian nursing students failing new exam at high rate

TORONTO — Ontario nursing students are failing their licensing exams at an alarming rate. Canadian nurses are now required to take an American-based exam and some claim it asks questions that have nothing to do with Canadian healthcare.

“What we are concerned about is what we’re learning in school because obviously the success rate is not the greatest,” said York University nursing student Rachel Ip. “I’m kind of nervous now too.”

The America-based online exam, dubbed NCLEX, replaced the written Canadian Registered Nurse Examination in January 2015. The results are in for the first round of exams since January and they are worrisome.

Across Canada 4,701 students took the exam in the past six months and of those, 1,380 failed. In Ontario, 1,688 exams were written and 539 failed. The number of failures in Ontario is up by about 20 per cent from the year before. Ip said those statistics were “daunting.”

Story continues below advertisement

“It seems to me it’s a very strong indicator that this is not a good exam for testing the competency that a nurse needs to practice in the Canadian health care setting,” said Dr. Kirsten Woodend, President of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.

This has students and even nursing faculty stressed out over the new exam, but the faculty at York University isn’t planning on altering their curriculum to match the American program.

“We are trying to help student prepare for an exam that wasn’t designed for them, it was designed for nurses that practice in the United States,” said Janet Jeffrey, director of School of Nursing at York University.

The Canadian Council of Registered Nurse Regulators imposed the new exam.

“[The NCLEX] does not test knowledge of health care systems, cultural issues, or government policy and laws,” CCRNR said in a statement.

“In addition, all drug names are generic and refer to medications that entry-level nurses are expected to know. Measurements in metric are provided, as well.”

Story continues below advertisement

Nursing educators are not convinced though.

“I would like to see that there is recognition that there have been some real issues with the exam this year,” said Jennifer Medves, Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing.

“We respectfully request that we have an online exam that is Canadian content developed in Canada. I would like the regulators to take a second look at the decision they have made.”

The new exam also means that Canadian nursing students will be licensed to practice in the United States, something some students are looking forward to benefiting from.

“I personally was really excited because I do want to practice in the U.S. in the future,” said Ip.

“So it worked out really great because if I were to take the old one, the CRNE, then it meant that I’d have to take another exam and I didn’t want that stress

Sponsored content