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IENs want more exam prep time: CNO survey

Toronto, Ont. Sept. 1, 2022 – The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) protects the public by promoting safe nursing practice. This includes registering nurses who have the knowledge, skill and judgment to practice safely in Ontario, whether educated in Canada or internationally. One requirement of registration is successfully completing a nursing regulatory exam.

CNO is exploring the barriers applicants may encounter in their journey to registration. As part of this, we recently surveyed 3,343 internationally educated nurse (IEN) applicants who are currently eligible to write the registration exam, but who have not attempted to, or who attempted to write the exam but failed. Of those surveyed, 1,282 applicants responded.

“We want to understand why these applicants are not taking the opportunity to challenge the registration exam, and what factors may influence their decision,” says Carol Timmings, acting Executive Director and CEO, and Chief Quality Officer of CNO.

Survey findings

Survey results show that the leading reason for IENs not writing the exam is lack of time to prepare. Sixty per cent of survey respondents said this is the top reason.

Nearly 26% indicate that family and personal reasons are a contributing factor, and another 22% cite finances.

Twenty per cent of Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) applicants are nervous about writing the registration exam called REx-PN, while another 8% do not feel prepared to write the exam.

Of the 1,282 respondents, 86% plan to write the registration exam within the year. Less than 2% have not written the exam because they plan to close their application or they are uncertain about entering the work force because of the pandemic.

“The outcomes of this survey give us important information directly from applicants about why they’re choosing not to write the final registration exam,” says Timmings. “It’s important for us to identify barriers so we can work with government and system partners to find ways to remove barriers and support applicants to meet requirements fairly and equitably — while continuing to keep public safety as our most important priority.”

We will further analyze the results of the survey to better understand these barriers.

Increasing nurses in the system

The survey is part of CNO’s commitment to modernize our applicant assessment processes and is highlighted in CNO’s response to the directive from the Minister of Health, to support safe patient care.

Through our modernizing work, CNO has already broken records for registering IENs this year. Policy changes to the language proficiency requirement and collaborations like the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership have led to increased numbers of new nurses in the health care system. 

“We plan to continue this momentum as we collaborate with system partners and government to identify further system solutions to respond to the growing system demands,” Timmings adds.

Visit CNO’s Registration Totals at a Glance for detailed information on current registrations.

Article corrected Nov. 30, 2022, for data accuracy.




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Page last reviewed September 01, 2022