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FAQs: NCLEX-RN as education assessment for IENs

In March, Council decided that the approved process for evaluating Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) applicants for registration as an RN in Ontario be amended to include passing the NCLEX-RN exam. 

At that time, they set Jan. 1, 2015 as the cut-off date for passing the NCLEX-RN exam as a way for internationally educated RN applicants to show they have the knowledge, skill and judgment needed to meet the education requirement.

After this decision was made, CNO was prompted by stakeholder feedback and our own ongoing review of our processes to re-consider the January 1, 2015 date. Consequently, Council has approved revising the cut off date for passing the NCLEX-RN exam to Apr. 1, 2013 as evidence of having the knowledge, skill and judgment to meet the education requirement.

IEN applicants who apply to CNO after completing the NNAS process and who have been identified through the NNAS educated assessment as not having nursing knowledge, skill and judgment equivalent to that of a current graduate of an approved baccalaureate degree nursing program will now meet the nursing education requirement, if they successfully completed the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013.

How will I know if this change impacts me?

CNO will contact all applicants to whom the new assessment process applies and tell them about their next steps in the application process. Please allow until June 30 to hear from us. You can check for updates in the online applicant portal. 

Why are you not accepting passes on the NCLEX-RN before apr.1, 2013?

To meet the education requirement, internationally educated RNs are legally required to possess knowledge, skill, judgment reflective of the RN entry-to-practice competencies that are at least equivalent to those of current graduates from approved baccalaureate degree nursing programs. It is important to note that being current is a key component of this legal requirement. This helps to ensure newly registered nurses are prepared to practice safely and competently to meet the present and evolving needs of patients and practice settings.

Although the most current RN entry-to-practice competencies were implemented in 2020, to be fair, Council decided on the cut-off date of April 1, 2013 because the previous competencies (2014) reflect what external assessors, such as NNAS and Touchstone Institute, use to assess the education of applicants. The 2014 competencies are also reflected in the NCLEX-RN test plan that came into effect in April 2013.

Did CNO review the previous nclex-rn test plans since 1982, to be fair to all IEN applicants who have passed the NCLEX-RN before Apr. 1, 2013?

We considered previous test plans and reviewed the competencies on which the earlier exam was based. While there were a lot of similarities, there were some fundamental differences that relate to shifts in nursing practice over time. 

There were new competencies added in 2014. A few examples are to:

  • “Promote current evidence-informed practices”
  •  “Utilize a systems approach to patient safety and participate with others in the prevention of near misses, errors and adverse events”
  •  “Incorporate knowledge of the health disparities and inequities of vulnerable populations, and the contributions of nursing”

While we would have liked to push the date further back, the evidence shows that this would not assess that an applicant’s nursing knowledge, skill and judgment meets the legal requirement of being current when compared to that of current Ontario graduates and would not be in alignment and equitable with our other assessment processes for the Internationally educated applicants.

CNO has already received proof of the passing results of my NCLEX-RN exam. Can you update my Education requirement now?

If you passed the NCLEX-RN after Apr. 1, 2013, we will contact you about required next steps. Please allow until June 30 to hear from us. You can check for updates in the online applicant portal.

I passed the NCLEX-RN. What should I do?

If you have not yet applied to CNO, start your assessment process by applying to the NNAS (details can be found at www.nnas.ca/). Once you have completed that process and have been issued your NNAS Advisory Report, you can then apply to CNO. We will then review your information, including evidence that you passed the NCLEX-RN on or after Apr. 1, 2013, from the nursing regulatory board through which you wrote it.

  • If you currently have an open application with CNO and a nursing regulatory board has already submitted confirmation that you passed the NCLEX-RN on or after Apr. 1, 2013, Please allow until June 30 to hear from us. You can check for updates in the online applicant portal. If you have not heard from us by then, contact our Customer Service Centre via email at cno@cnomail.org.
  • If you currently have an open application with CNO but have not arranged for  confirmation that you passed NCLEX-RN to be sent to CNO, please have the nursing regulatory body send a document confirming that you passed the NCLEX-RN on or after Apr. 1, 2013 directly to CNO. If you are registered with the regulatory body, then this would usually be the Verification of Registration document. If you are not registered with them, then this would be a document confirming the date you passed the NCLEX-RN.

Can I send proof that I passed the NCLEX-RN exam to CNO?

CNO will review all affected applications to determine which ones need any additional information. This will take until June 30, and we appreciate your patience. If documents confirming that you passed the NCLEX-RN on or after April 1, 2013 have not been submitted to CNO, please arrange for the nursing regulatory board to submit them directly to CNO. 

Can I apply directly to Ontario rather than NNAS?

No, every IEN applicant must start their application process with NNAS.

You can create your applicant profile with CNO, but until we receive the NNAS Advisory Report, we will not be able to start processing your application.

Why do I still need to apply to NNAS first?

NNAS is the first step in the application process for all internationally educated RNs. 

NNAS validates that you have completed a nursing program that prepared you to practice as the type of nurse for which you are seeking to become registered. NNAS’ education assessment is a key part of the process to understand the gaps in nursing knowledge, skill and judgment for applicants from different jurisdiction.

Since applicants can apply to several jurisdictions in Canada, this process maintains consistency for validating and authenticating documents. Every applicant must submit education documents, identification documents, verification of registration, verification of employment, and evidence of language proficiency to NNAS for authentication and validation.

Once you apply to CNO, we can then determine whether or not you have met the nursing education requirement based on further assessment of the information you provided, including validating whether you passed the NCLEX-RN on or after Apr. 1, 2013. NNAS does not make this determination.

I passed the NCLEX-RN exam prior to Apr, 1, 2013, does this qualify to meet my nursing education requirement?

No. Council only approved successful completion of the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013.  

I have successfully completed the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013. Will this meet my evidence of practice requirement?

No. Successfully completing the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013 will only meet the nursing education requirement.

I have successfully completed the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013. Will this meet my language proficiency requirement?

No. Successfully completing the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013 will only meet the nursing education requirement.

Can CNO make me eligible to write the NCLEX-RN exam?

CNO can only allow you to write the NCLEX-RN once you have completed the process that makes you eligible to write a registration exam. The process of becoming eligible starts with you submitting to NNAS your education documents, identification documents, verification of registration, verification of employment, and evidence of language proficiency. NNAS will authenticate and validate these documents, and then send CNO a report.

Based on NNAS’ Advisory Report, we then determine whether or not your nursing education has provided you with equivalent knowledge, skills and judgment to meet the nursing education requirement and become eligible to write the NCLEX-RN.

We will notify you when you are eligible to attempt the exam and can register for the NCLEX-RN.

If not, then you will have to complete further assessment and/or additional education.

Can I write the NCLEX-RN exam with another nursing regulatory body or Board of Nursing in the future to meet my nursing education requirement?

Yes. If another nursing regulatory body or Board of Nursing allows you to write the NCLEX-RN and you pass the exam, the regulatory body or board of nursing can send your results directly to CNO.

I am an RN outside of Ontario and have already passed the NCLEX-RN exam on or after Apr. 1, 2013. Can I apply directly to CNO to become registered?

If you completed your RN program in Canada or are currently registered as an RN in Canada, you can apply directly to CNO. If you are educated outside of Canada and are not currently registered as a practicing RN in Canada, you must first apply to NNAS. This process has not changed.

Page last reviewed June 04, 2021