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Upgrading RN in Canada

Before our scheduled interview in the Canadian Embassy, I started to browse the net on how I can upgrade my nursing in Canada. We were planning to go to Edmonton. Alberta Canada coz thats the only place where my husband's cousins are living. It is so hard to move when you dont know anybody right? We wanted to go to Vancouver at first coz thats one of the beautiful place to live according to some people.

So I check the website of College and Association of RN of Alberta (CARNA). Everything you want to know is there. I just download and print the application form, form for school and for the PRC. After I passed the IELTS exam I didnt send it to them yet coz Im still not sure if they going to reply. After 8 months I received a letter from them telling me that they got all my credentials except my IELTS result. So I mailed it to them through IDP.

September of 2006 when I got a letter saying I need to take the Substantially Equivalent Competence (SEC) Assessment Exam. It's a 5 days exam where they test your nursing knowledge and skills in all the different fields of nursing such as Med-Surg, Maternity and Child, Pediatrics and Psychiatric Nursing. It's a pencil and paper based multiple choice exam in each field plus a short answer portion. There is also the "Triple Jump Assessment", a case presentation type. Another component of the assessment is the "clinical judgment one on one exam" which is like an oral exam and the last part is the return demonstration where the examiners will tell you to do certain procedures in a clinical setting. I tell you its difficult and its downright crazy if you are not familiar with what they are asking! I will give you some details about that on my next blog.

As soon as we arrived here in Edmonton, Canada, I phoned the one who is in charge of the assessment exam appointment. We talked and she booked me for Aug 12-16 exam in Mt. Royal College in Calgary. Calgary is the biggest city here in Alberta, travel time is 3 hours by bus from Edmonton. I have to wait for 3 months again before I can take that exam. I'm so eager to challenge their exam coz I just reviewed in KAPLAN for NCLEX. I think I have enough knowledge but Im not confident with my skills. Sort of saying .... Maybe I got the knowledge but not enough of the skills!

While waiting for that, I have to look for a job. I applied as Nursing Assistant (NA) in a continuing care facility under the Capital Care Group. Luckily, I was hired. Right now, I'm still working as an NA pending compliance of all the requirements needed to be an RN here in Canada.


Anonymous said...

I submitted my application for assessment in CARNA and they said that I need to pass the English proficiency test then book for the SEC assessment. I recently took the IELTS and successfully passed it. Do you have any idea on how often they conduct the SEC assessment? I really do not have any idea about the test, all I know is that it is a nursing competency exam. From what you've written, it seems like it is really a tough test. Can you please give me some important points in which areas I should concentrate studying on? Thank you...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary Ann! I hope you pass the exams. I am hoping to read the details of the exams which you said you will post on your next blog. I am also thinking of taking the CRPNE being a psychiatric nurse here in the Phils. I know that this is a 2-day exam compared to CARNE's 5 days. I just don't know the breakdown of the exams.

I am planning also to work in Edmonton under Capital Health. They say that if one has been credentialed with CARNA, one may work as a graduate nurse, before becoming a registered nurse (pending passing the CARNE). If not credentialed, then one can only work as a nursing assistant. I was wondering why you are still an NA when you have obviously been credentialed by CARNA.

Good luck and more power to you.


Anonymous said...

The Substantially Equivalent Competence (SEC) Assessment is a full week of exams and assessments:
Three three hour exams in peds, psych and maternity; each exam is 120 multiple choice questions and then 20 short answer written questions: you are allowed more than three hours and many need it. One three hour multiple choice exam in general and med surg, and one three hour short answer written question exam. Five paper based exams.
The clinical judgement are a type of verbal exam: you can have the question read to you, read it yourself, or read along, then you have to respond: you do one of these in each of med surg, peds, psych and maternity: Each exam takes about an hour to an hour and a half:
There are two triple jumps, and they take a couple of hours: Another type of oral exam.
You also get three clinical scenarios with another instructor in the role of a patient: These take a good couple of hours to undertake, and each patient will have an emergency of some type during the assessment that you have to deal with. During this scenario you have to do sometime during one of the three take complete VS including temperature, give oral meds, start IV, start antibiotics IV, draw up meds including insulin, dress a wound, etc.
You have to be fluent in english: Yes, fluent, both written and verbal. If not you won’t get through the exams in any time frame, or get through the oral assessments. Not an easy process.
It takes several months to set up your assessment week: And then after all this, you will wait for a couple of months to find out your results, then get told what more you have to do to register in Alberta. Perhaps better to look somewhere else.
The week is full most AMs and PMs, Short break at lunch is best so you can get back to the afternoon exam or activity to finish by the end of a day. Pack your lunch, easier and less time than trying to find lunch. Library available to stay at end of day to prep for next day. First day is surprise, but get your schedule for the week so you know what to read up on for the next day. Bring your own books if you are not form Calgary.
Calgary and Edmonton actually are about the same relative population, but Calgary is more star style and longer to get across town, and Edmonton has the other cities on the outside.
Getting hired as a NA is OK, but the pay is low, and both Calgary and Edmonton are very expensive. Wages for an RN look good, but it is a long time to get to register in Alberta while they have you in the lower NA job. Work as a NA while waiting for your landed status, scheduling the assessment and waiting to find out, then start working on your additional requirements, and once you get your landed, write the NCLEX. With that you can go to the US to work as an RN at higher wages, coming back and forth to Canada as needed. Canada is great to raise a family, but the US is easier to become an RN and work at higher wages.
Hope this helps everyone.

janelleregina said...

Hello Mary Ann =)
Forgive me for my ignorance but I just want to know what RN means? What does it stand for? I've always wondered about that.. haha
Please reply to my site cbox. Very desperate to know now. hahaha Thank you so muchhhhhh =) Oh and btw, I am a nursing student sooo.. I know. I'm such a nutcase not to know what RN means. Rar. haha =)) hope to hear from you soon! =)
Take care!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary ann, I'm Annalou Laudico by the way.. I just recently read your posts.
I was interviewed by a Canadian Employer through Internet though they have local Agency representative here. They require us to first do a CARNA Assessment so we could have a GN license.
Up to now, I'm still waiting for the result of Assessment.. They said it takes 2mos to receive a result.. I know you are aware of the 4 types of result right? and it seems, but correct me if I'm wrong, you fall on option 3 assessment where you have to go to canada to take EXAM... Is that right.. Option 1 is recognized as a GN license with work permit. Option 2 somewhat represents with missing requirements but with work permit... Now I'm just curious, what does it take to get the GN license.. I don't quite get what are their gauge to get the ELIGIBILITY for a GN license.
I already passed CGFNS and Ielts.. hmmm... I'm kinda worried about it right now especially when i read your blog. It's a hassle if we have to take EXAMS again just to be eligible for CRNA..
I hope for your response.. Thanks

len said...

hello...Im len, new landed immgrant here in Vancouver,I just submitted my applicaion In CRNBC and they required me to take a English test...A bit upset coz I don't have any idea how to become a RN here in Vancouver before we finally moved here with my family....Now I'm confused which English Test is better to take IELTS or CELBAN...anyone can give me some piece of advice...Thanks guys...

Anonymous said...

Has anybody taken the SEC assessment for general nursing? I'm scheduled to take the exam in Feb. I was told that the written exam is about Med-Surg and that it will be a 2-day exam. Please give me some pointers. Thanks!

deepak said...

I am happy to find so many useful information here in the post, thanks for sharing. cna sample questions

Anonymous said...

I just finished my SEc assessment here in vancouver last jan 28-29. I still havent got my results yet. Its almost 3 mos. The result is really slow.

Hey May Ann did you do upgrading already? Why are you still an NA? Because I know right after sec assessment results, its either you're eligible to take the CRNE or you need upgrading.

Izah said...

I'm taking my SEC assessment this coming april. I haven't read yet coz i dont know when I'm gonna start. Kindly please share some questions and case situations to me for my preparation? Ill have my exam n the 4 subjects and I'm so worried about everything. Please help me. email me at :

thank you for all your support

yahri said...

Hi Ma'am May Ann,

This is Rhea of ICSEC-Kaplan Davao Center, we've read your post and we would also like to hear from you as to the outcome of your CRNE/CARNA preparation/test? If you would be so kind to share with us how your NCLEX preparation with ICSEC-Kaplan, if at all, helped in the Canada foreign exam requirements. We are hopeful of your positive response and we would be very glad to also share this with fellow RNs who may benefit from your experience. Hope to hear from you soon, Ma'am. Thank you very much..:)

Anonymous said...

before any registration do i need to go there first?or i can start processing my papers even if im still here in the philippines??i hope anyone can help me po!!thanks..i passed the ielts already..

Anonymous said...


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CRNEprep said...

Good luck in passing your exams. Having worked with new nurse graduates and Internationally Trained Nurses pass both their CRNE and CPNRE, all I can suggest is study study study. Good luck in passing!

Anonymous said...


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April said...

Hi, is there anyone here
processing his/her nursing registration in BC and is currently living in Vancouver?

I am an IEN (Philippines)
and working my way to get registered in BC but I find the whole process to be really slow.

I have submitted my application for registration to CRNBC along with my papers last December. They have responded thru email last January telling me that they've received my document and is currently for review.

After 3 months, I finally received the email requiring me to complete the SEC (General MS Nsg). Now, I have 1 year to book my SEC assessment.

I suddenly felt unsure of my self. It's been almost a year since I graduated and I guess I am not as confident as I was before I took the NLE (July). Although I have successfully passed and placed in the said exam.
Ergo, I really need to refresh my nursing knowledge and skills

I am in search of any materials that could aid me as I go through this week-long assessment.
(and so, I found this post)

I hope to meet someone who's in the same situation I am now.

Anyhow, I hope I've been as helpful as what this post has been to me.

Thanks and regards to everyone.
feel free to contact me


Anonymous said...

I am a nursing graduate in philippines as of now i am working as a live-in care giver...i want to upgrade my course here in vancouver...any suggestion where i am going ? For Assessment? So that i am Going to prepare My self while i am waiting for my Permanent Residence,And prepare all requirements please help me ...i will check nxtime if thier is a reply on this post...thank you!!

Anonymous said...

@ april:How are you now? Are you in BC already? I'm also an IEN and planning to go in Vancouver soon, I just want to know the process of becoming an RN in BC. Is it ok to send my requirements from school and PRC though I'm still here in the Philippines? This is mikai..:)

nancy john said...

Good post about ielts it is very useful for students

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michelle Docdocil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
michelle Docdocil said...

hi! I'm michelle and I'm living here in surrey,b.c.. I just want to ask if any of you had an experience already having the SEC assessment..nagsubmit na kasi ako ng application sa CRNBC and nagaantay nalng ako ng result ng assessment nila and since madame naman nagsasabe na kailangan nga mag undergo ng SEC assessment, gusto ko sana malaman kung ano meron sa assessment na un...maraming salamat!

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