Nursing Education and Career FAQ
Why Is Nursing Such a Good Career Option?
Genuine, far-reaching impact. That's how a lot of nurses might express the nature of their careers. The significance of their work extends into many areas of their lives, both personally and professionally. Here's a sample of what they tend to value most:
Real Human Connection
When you help people get through very difficult circumstances, it can lead to warm, unforgettable moments of gratitude. Many patients and their families share their appreciation for helping them get better or for relieving their discomfort. And those expressions of appreciation can go a long way toward how meaningful your job feels at the end of the day.
Most nurses earn very respectable wages. For example, from 2011 to 2012, the median hourly wage in Canada for LPNs was $23.75. And it was $34.65 for RNs.*
Of course, what you can make depends on where you live, where you work, and how much experience you have. Nurses in very rural or remote places often make more than those in urban areas. For instance, an experienced LPN can earn as much as $45.96 per hour in the Northwest Territories.*
People who work in this field are admired for having a dignified career. And they often feel a heightened sense of self-assurance since they know that they can help handle medical issues or emergencies even when they aren't on the job.
In Canada, no group of regulated health care workers is larger than nurses. They make up one-third of the sector's workforce. Even so, the country has a shortage of them. And that shortfall is predicted to grow to about 60,000 by the year 2022 due to a population that is aging, living longer, and in need of more and more professional care.**
Lively and Interesting Work Days
Forget about being bored. The life of a nurse is often filled with fascinating situations and intriguing people.
Ample Career Possibilities
The field is truly expansive. You might decide to start as a practical nurse and remain in that role. Or you could choose to become a registered nurse and specialize in one of several niche areas like pediatrics, psychiatric care, or even neuroscience.
How Is a Practical Nurse Different from an RN or a Nursing Assistant?
The main differences come down to the level of training and what you are allowed to do on the job. An RN generally has at least two more years of education than a practical nurse. And nursing assistants or unit clerks frequently have about one year less than practical nurses.
Practical nurses, despite requiring less time in school than RNs, tend to be slightly more involved in hands-on patient care. In fact, in 2011, almost 98 percent of practical nurses worked in that capacity versus 89 percent of RNs.**
Many registered nurses are responsible for supervising RPNs/LPNs and other support staff. They have the credentials to be able to make more decisions about a patient's care on their own. Thus, they are often the ones directing practical nurses or assistants in what procedures to perform.
Unit clerks primarily help the nursing staff with non-clinical, administrative functions. They assist with communication between doctors, nurses, and different departments. That lets the nurses spend more time directly with each patient.
What Would I Be Doing Each Day as an LPN/RPN?
Mostly, you would be providing essential care to patients in a very direct way. Your day might include doing things like:
- Monitoring vital signs
- Supervising and assisting with nutritional intake
- Dressing and looking after wounds
- Assisting with personal hygiene activities
- Collecting specimens for lab testing
- Administering medications
- Taking proper infection control measures
- Educating patients and their families
- Keeping track of the effects of any respiratory or intravenous therapies
- Assisting with pain control
- Looking after medical devices
Where Would I Work?
Most Canadian nurses work in the hospital sector. In fact, about 43 percent of RPNs/LPNs and 62 percent of RNs worked in hospitals in 2011.**
And you might have the chance to explore many other kinds of work environments as well. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are a couple of big examples (employing 39 percent of practical nurses).**
Other employment settings include doctors' offices and clinics, mental health and substance abuse centres, rehabilitation facilities, and even private homes.
How Do I Get Licensed?
Nursing licenses are issued by your province. First, you will need to get the appropriate education. To become an RN, most provinces require you to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. To become an LPN or RPN, you will first need to complete a practical nursing program.
Then, in most areas of Canada, you will need to pass one of these national exams:
- The Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPNRE)
- The Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE)
It's worth noting that, if you are a foreign-trained nurse, special programs exist to help you prepare for these nursing licensure tests.
How Long Does Nursing School Take?
Most LPN/RPN programs last only about two years, but some can take up to three. If you're after a career as an RN, then expect to be in school for at least four years.
Getting trained for an important support role such as nursing unit clerk usually takes less than a year.
Which Nursing Career Should I Choose?
It really depends on how soon you want to start working. Many people choose to pursue a practical nursing education at first. This can allow you to get your training in a fairly short time and begin experiencing what the field is all about without having the major time commitment of an RN education.
Then, even if you love your RPN/LPN career, you'll know that you have the option of working to advance in your profession later on through an LPN-to-RN bridge program. This approach has become pretty common among today's nurses.
How Can I Locate a Program That Matches What I Need?
This page is a good place to start. It has a number of options that you will likely find compelling. So dig into the possibilities right now. Or use the easy search tool to narrow down your choices. And remember to request further information from any of the nursing schools that you're curious about. Each one is ready to help guide you to a brilliant future.
* Government of Canada, Working in Canada, website last visited on February 11, 2014.
** Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU), Nursing Workforce Backgrounder, website last accessed on February 11, 2014.