Careers – Registered Nurse

Consider a Career as a Registered Nurse

What is nursing?

The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) describes nursing as the profession of educating and treating patients. Registered nurses (RNs) inform the public about various medical conditions. Furthermore, registered nurses provide guidance, advice, and support to patients and their families.

RNs monitor patients? symptoms, administer treatment and medications, take histories, assist with and conduct medical diagnostic tests, and help interpret clinical results along with other members of the health care team.

Education and training

Nursing licensure and registration occurs at the provincial level. Nursing candidates must be licensed or registered in the province or territory in which they will practice nursing.

All Canadian provinces and territories except Quebec require that candidates write the Canadian Registered Nurses Examination as part of the registration or licensure process. The regulatory college of each province and territory is mandated through legislation to regulate the profession of nursing. Its objective is to protect the public’s right to quality nursing services by providing leadership to the nursing profession in self-regulation.

Admission information and requirements

There are over 50 nursing programs across Canada leading to either a diploma or baccalaureate degree in nursing. Admission criteria vary and applicants are advised to contact the school of their choice directly.

Athabasca University offers three Baccalaureate of Nursing (BN) degree programs through the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies: 1) post-RN; 2) the post-licensed practical nurses? (LPN) BN; and 3) the BN program.

The first program is geared toward applicants who are graduates of an RN diploma program and wish to obtain a university level education. Conversely, the post-LPN BN program is designed for LPNs, providing the opportunity to further their nursing education in a baccalaureate program.

Finally, the BN at Athabasca University at Mount Royal College (BN AU at MRC/Calgary) is a ?collaborative, integrated program designed for students who are just entering the nursing profession.?

Athabasca University also offers graduate programs, including a master of nursing and related graduate health sciences degrees.

Where registered nurses work

According to the CNA, the majority of RNs work within the publicly funded sector of health care. A minority of nurses work in the private sector and an even smaller number are self-employed. Nurses are employed in a variety of settings, from working in the emergency room to community-based practice.

Nurses are also employed by the private industry, as part of school boards, and also as consultants for the government.


The nursing employment situation in Canada is improving after several years of hospital downsizing and mergers. The CNA states that nurses with skills and experience in specialty areas (e.g., emergency, critical care, and operating room) and those willing to work in smaller communities or isolated communities are in the most demand.

The Canadian Nurses Association is anticipating a shortage of RNs in Canada. Unionized full-time nurses? wages across the country are listed below:

Full-time RN Hourly Rate Ranges (not including premiums) by province

Source: Adapted from the Ontario Nurses? Association (2008).

For more information or a directory of nursing programs, please visit the Canadian Nurses Association website.

For information about nursing programs at Athabasca University, please visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies website.

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