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Francophone nurses call for removal of ‘lingustic barriers’ imposed by entry exams

WATCH: A group of nurses have signed a complaint addressed to the province's language commissioner, calling for accommodations to be made for francophone students who have to take nursing exams in English. Callum Smith explains.

A group of Francophone nurses from New Brunswick are filing a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages on Wednesday, saying that linguistic barriers are preventing many nurses from passing the entry-to-practice exam.

“The educational resources for students do not exist in French, so the Francophone population is disadvantaged,” said Lise Guerrette Daigle, a nurse and spokesperson for the group.

Ron Blanchard, the clinical lab coordinator at Université de Moncton, says he recommends students write the exam in English if they feel comfortable enough with the language.
Ron Blanchard, the clinical lab coordinator at Université de Moncton, says he recommends students write the exam in English if they feel comfortable enough with the language. Callum Smith/Global News

As the province grapples with a nursing shortage, the group gained support from those in attendance at Université de Moncton, signing the complaint and calling for the rights of Francophones to be respected by the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB).

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“Mostly all of them that wrote in English have passed in English,” said Ron Blanchard, clinical lab co-ordinator and nurse at Université de Moncton.

But Francophone students are struggling, with Liette Mainville, a retired nurse, saying that there are many students wanting to be a nurse, but they’re afraid.

“I have friends that are like really Francophone — they can’t study in English, they don’t understand it fully and they can’t pass the exam,” said Chloe Pelletier, a nursing student.

Pelletier’s Francophone friends who enter fourth year of nursing have done their studies in French, but will need to write in English because of translation concerns with the French exam and study materials.

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On top of that, the entry-to-practice exam, known as NCLEX, is American-based, adding additional challenges to the language concern.

“The American services for health [are] quite different from the Canadian one,” said Chelsea Cormier, a nursing student.
Lise Guerrette Daigle is a nurse and spokesperson for the group, who says some high school students turn down a nursing program due to the language barriers.
Lise Guerrette Daigle is a nurse and spokesperson for the group, who says some high school students turn down a nursing program due to the language barriers. Callum Smith/Global News

The group said there is also translation concerns between the French and English exams, and say high school students are taking different routes because of the barriers.

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“They’ve heard about the exam, the difficulties that students have had, the costs that’s associated with writing the exam one time, two times, three times,” said Daigle.

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The previous commissioner of official languages for New Brunswick released a report in in May 2018, saying the NANB put Francophone students at a disadvantage, and called for action by September.

“I’ve had several nursing students come up to me and ask the question if they should write their exam, NCLEX, in English. And I’ve commented to them that if they do understand English, by all means do it, because you’ll probably pass,” said Blanchard.

Global News reached out to NANB, but they weren’t available for immediate comment.

 

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