In August of this year, the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) will launch a portal that will enable Internationally Educated Nurses (IENS) to initiate their application for registration in Canada using a single integrated service. This is just the beginning of a more collaborative and streamlined effort among nurse regulators to create a more efficient and responsive registration process for IENs. I believe this lays the foundation for further improvements to the IEN experience.

BC has one of the highest per-capita numbers of IENs registered in Canada. As a result BC nurses represent a wide range of backgrounds and expertise from around the globe. While each IEN’s experience in coming to Canada is unique, there are common challenges and opportunities for those seeking registration as a nurse.

At the end of January, I attended a roundtable discussion hosted by Health Canada to discuss some of these common issues about IENs’ pathways to registration. I was honoured to represent the Canadian Council of Registered Nurse Regulators and to connect with nursing leaders from the LPN, RPN, and RN communities, as well as policy analysts, nursing educators, researchers and IEN representatives. The roundtable focussed on updating the participants about the inroads we have all made to improve the experience of IENs applying for nurse registration in Canada. It also provided a forum for identifying what improvements are still needed.

What was most helpful about the discussion was hearing the stories of two IENs who registered as nurses in Canada in the late 2000s. It was compelling to hear them speak about the recent changes regulators, governments and other stakeholders have made in the last few years and understand how these new approaches would have significantly improved their registration experiences.

We know that there is still work to do. We know that credential recognition is not the best way to demonstrate competence in the Canadian health care setting. Competency assessment options (adopted for RN applicants in BC in 2009) are helping regulators better assess applicants. We also know that IENs need help navigating the whole process—immigration requirements, registration processes, searching for employment as a nurse and language supports. By working together, regulators, governments, employers, educators, associations, unions and NGOs can and are making a difference. The NNAS is but one example of the positive changes I expect we will continue to see in the months and years ahead.