In Canada, the entry to practice education required in all provinces and territories is a baccalaureate degree (exception Quebec and Yukon). This shift occurred during the early to mid 2000s based on much research showing that staffing with baccalaureate prepared nurses is associated with improved patient safety and positive patient outcomes. “One study showed a five-per-cent decrease in the risk of patient death for every 10-per-cent increase in the proportion of hospital RNs holding degrees. There have been similar findings for community-based health services; the health outcomes of people cared for by baccalaureate-educated RNs were significantly better. Better patient outcomes also mean cost savings for the health-care system (CNA, 2009, ¶2). In addition, a higher level of education makes the health-care system more efficient and accessible.
There are various structures of baccalaureate nursing programs within in Canada. Some schools operate year round, with no summer, so that students will graduate more quickly while others maintain some or all their summer semesters off. An increasing number of students have significant post-secondary education before starting their nursing degree, and many have already obtained a degree in another discipline (CNA, 2009). Please visit the following website for information on schools of nursing in Canada: http://www.cna-aiic.ca/nursingpgms/public_browse.asp
After completing a baccalaureate degree in nursing and working for a period of time, some nurses will return to school to obtain advanced certifications or degrees. For example, a nurse wanting to practice in a specialty area such as maternity, intensive care, emergency or operating room nursing needs to attend a specialty program that includes theory courses and clinical education to be able to work in that area.
Other nurses may want to study at a graduate education level to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree to work in advanced practice nursing. We will discuss this type of special nursing in an upcoming blog so stay tuned…
All nurses are required by their national and provincial regulatory body to engage in continuing education in order to provide competent care. This can be achieved by attending conferences, workshops, journal clubs and participating in other activities that encourage learning and straying up to date so that they will provide evidence-based nursing.