Our role at the College is to protect the public through the regulation of nurses. One way we do this is by setting the entry-to-practice requirements for nurses in B.C. to help ensure nurses working in the health care system are safe, competent practitioners. The NCLEX-RN plays an essential role in this. It strengthens our evaluation of a nurse’s ability to deliver safe competent care before entering the profession.

Nursing is an incredibly complex profession that requires knowledge, judgment, skill, and self-reflection, as well as continual professional development. When a nurse starts their first job in Canada, both clients and the healthcare team need to feel confident in that individual’s ability to deliver safe competent care. Nursing practice requires a significant knowledge base with the skills and ability to perform complex and technical procedures safely. The standard for entry into the profession must be rigorous.

The NCLEX is a critical component to evaluating nursing and offers a number of advantages:

  1. A best-practice approach on par with other leading countries: The NCLEX is an entry-to-practice nursing exam that provides a valid and reliable measurement of minimum knowledge, skills, and abilities required to deliver safe, effective nursing care at the entry level. Entry level nursing practice is measured in similar ways around the world, including in Canada, the US, Australia, Europe, and other industrialized nations. This is one reason why nurses from around the world are currently practising in British Columbia, and why nurses from Canada are able to practise globally.
  2. Computer-adaptive testing technology: As a computer-adaptive test (CAT), the NCLEX-RN offers significant advantages over the former paper-and-pencil exam. It is more effective at determining a nurse’s competency because it will continue to ask questions until it knows within a certain statistical certainty that the writer does, or does not, know the content. As well, CAT enables a variety of response formats, such as single response multiple choice, multiple response, fill-in-the-blank, drag and drop, etc. and a variety of display formats, such as chart/exhibit displays, tables and graphic images. In the future the CAT format will permit even more complex question types that may include audio, animation, interactivity and video. This flexibility allows the exam to better evolve with technology and the nursing profession.
  3. Secure, valid and widely accessible: The NCLEX-RN is secure, valid, widely accessible and identifies who are ready to begin practising in our province as autonomous, safe practitioners. Unlike the previous pencil-and-paper exam, the NCLEX-RN can be written year-round making it far more efficient and convenient for applicants. It covers such areas as: nursing care of clients with acute and chronic illness; safety and infection control; and health promotion and maintenance — important areas required for safe care.
  4. A Canadian practice analysis conducted every three years: The NCLEX-RN accurately reflects entry-to-practice nursing requirements in Canada and matches the basic competencies taught in Canada’s nursing school programs. The exam is founded on a practice analysis conducted in both Canada and the U.S. A practice analysis is conducted every three years to ensure the exam continues to reflect and gauge current practice requirements.

You can read more about the NCLEX and B.C.’s results here.

Looking forward
This year, two Canadians were appointed to the NCLEX review committee: myself, and Anne Coughlin, the Registrar/CEO of the College of Nurses of Ontario. We’re both now ex-officio members, meaning we’re in a position to shape and influence exam test plans and reviews, and ensure continued adherence to broad-based questions that meet the Canadian context. I recently attended a meeting of the committee, and I can tell you: the oversight, involvement and commitment of committee members is impressive.

In B.C., CRNBC falls under the provincial legislation of the Health Professions Act. This Act directs the College to ensure that we protect the public, and we do this by setting standards that guide the important work of nurses throughout our province. CRNBC is confident that the NCLEX continues the strong tradition within our province, and our country, of ensuring safe, competent nurses enter the nursing profession.

I welcome your feedback. Please email ceo@crnbc.ca to reach me directly.