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March 7, 2016

2015 NCLEX-RN results signal several major issues with nurse licensing exam


March 7, 2016, Ottawa — The full-year NCLEX-RN summary results for 2015, the first year for this new exam in Canada, show that pass rates for first-time writers are less than 70 per cent, raising concern among many in the nursing profession.

Only 69.7 per cent of Canadian nursing students passed on their first attempt, according to the 2015 summary data released last week from the Canadian Council of Registered Nurse Regulators. This means that nearly one in three students (approximately 3,300) were not successful in the exam despite successfully completing a four-year nursing baccalaureate program.

“We have to think about the real-life impacts that students experience when they do not pass initially,” said Karima Velji, president of the Canadian Nurses Association.

“Canada is well recognized worldwide for its high-quality nursing education, which is why these 2015 full-year results for first-time writers raise questions about the licensing exam itself, not the students’ knowledge or the quality of nursing education available in Canada,” said Velji.

As a result of the concerns heard throughout 2015, CNA hosted a roundtable in November to focus on addressing students’ concerns over the lack of French preparatory resources, the number of exam writings and associated costs required to pass the exam, and the lack of student supports.

Since the release of the initial results in fall 2015, many concerned groups in the nursing profession have clearly articulated and identified the challenges with the exam to the Canadian Council of Registered Nurses Regulators. Activities of various national organizations have included:

  • The Canadian Nursing Students’ Association (CNSA) passed a motion at their annual general meeting requesting a pause in the exam until identified issues have been resolved.
  • The Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne requested an immediate stop to the administration of the NCLEX-RN for all francophones in Canada.
  • The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) passed motions at their annual general meeting requesting: (1) an external evaluation of the validity of the NCLEX-RN exam within the Canadian context, and (2) that they begin to campaign for the return to a Canadian entry-to-practice exam.
  • The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) requested from provincial/territorial ministers of health a systemic, comprehensive and transparent review of the process and the exam.

Much more attention is required on this matter. CNA continues to collaborate with our nursing colleagues and partners to find ways to resolve these significant issues facing nursing students and our profession.

CNA is the national professional voice representing nearly 139,000 registered nurses in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.



For more information, please contact:

Marc Bourgeois, Director, Public Affairs and Member Outreach
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 252
Cell: 613-864-1371