Quebec's order of nurses is changing course, saying it will temporarily suspend its plan that would have required nurses to hold a university degree before working in the profession.
The Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ), which regulates nursing in the province, says it will concentrate its efforts on improving the licensing exam at the end of a nurse's studies.
In May 2022, the order announced it wanted new nurses to obtain a university degree. However, since then, the exam nursing students have to pass to enter the field has come under fire for its high failure rate, with some nurses calling for a change in how future nurses are tested.
Quebec's largest nurses' union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec (FIQ), welcomes this decision.
"The FIQ invites the OIIQ to now focus its energies on the fundamental problems of the nursing profession," said FIQ president Julie Bouchard. "These problems were denounced by the OIIQ in the past. For example, the employer moving nurses from one care unit to another without adequate preparation."
Bernard Tremblay, the head of the Quebec federation of CEGEPs, also welcomes the order dropping the university requirement, citing a labour shortage and a seven per cent drop in registrations for nursing programs in 2023.
Tremblay says attracting young people to the profession is a challenge. He says he wants Quebec's Health Ministry Ministry of Health to better promote CEGEP level nursing diplomas so the province's next generation of nurses can apply in "full confidence" that they will be able to practise.
Quebec currently has about 81,000 nurses, 53 per cent of whom have a bachelor's degree.
The OIIQ has also suspended its plan to use the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam, which is used in the United States and Canada's other provinces to obtain a licence to practise.
"It's recommended that nursing candidates not wait for the NCLEX-RN to register for the professional exam," said Alexandre Banville, head of the president's office at the order.
The next exam is scheduled for March 26 and will be open to all candidates, regardless of how many times they have failed it.
In November, Quebec's office of professions announced it wanted to force the OIIQ to review the admissions exam.
In January, the OIIQ's annual report showed that it has been issuing fewer permits in 2022-2023 than in the last decade.