Nursing Education In Canada vs. The U.S.

Nursing Education In Canada

Global standards in the healthcare industry have been recommended by thought leaders in medicine for decades who have said that worldwide uniformity could dramatically improve patient safety and increase the overall effectiveness of healthcare systems.

While there are several organizations dedicated to uniting healthcare systems on a global level, a recent plan to “harmonize” nursing education in Canada and the United States is failing to smoothly concede causing turbulence for the ambitious idea of globalized healthcare standards, according to the Globe and Mail.  

Last year Quacquarelli Symonds, one of the world’s leading ranking institutions, released a report showing Canada’s nursing program surpassing the United States in the QS World University Rankings.

Although the top two nursing programs in the world — University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. — are located in the United States, the overall consensus is that Canada’s education system is superior when considering global surveys of academic reputation, perceptions of graduate employers, research citations and measures of the global impact of scholarly publications

Cynthia Baker, executive director of the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, said:

“Canadian nursing education is highly respected internationally and we should not be changing that to fit the needs of the U.S.”

The difficulty of standardizing nursing education

The plan to harmonize nursing education between the two nations was first published in an online journal called Leader to Leader. The article was part of a bigger initiative to increase mobility among nursing graduates, but after heavy criticism, the article was taken offline. The organization, Harmonizing Education Regulatory Standards in Nursing, is a central player in promoting the accord. They said in a recent article:

“Nurses often practice across borders, either by physical movement, distance education or telehealth… Global consistency with nursing education regulatory approval standards would be beneficial for promoting more seamless mobility.”

While the neighboring countries often see patient cases that transition between each other’s borders, a set nursing standard is not looking like it will see such an easy transition.

As soon as the article was released, Canadian healthcare professionals fired back with vengeance because the proposition could compromise their program’s customs and protocols.

Better opportunities or better education?

Currently, with the exception of Quebec, Canada has a minimum education requirement of a bachelor’s degree in nursing to be eligible to work in a medical environment, whereas the United States only requires nurses to have a BSN or an associate’s degree in nursing. While many Americans believe that this level of education is adequate for a professional position, Canadians strongly disagree. Baker said:

We believe this harmonization plan would have serious negative implications for health human resources and for the Canadian health-care system.”

The truth is, the two nations operate under completely different models of nursing education. While the American-style system allows nurses greater opportunities to find jobs, it doesn’t facilitate the type of healthcare etiquette Canada has established that has led them to be a world leader in nursing education.

The technology to form a universal healthcare system is available and has been for a few years, that’s not the problem. It is the institutions who are preventing such a system from conjoining, as they would rather continue their operations than shift the status quo.

In order for healthcare standards to be unified on a global level, governments and medical institutions will need to compromise and put their pride behind them. The fundamental idea of healthcare is to serve patients with exceptional care and if universal standards would better accomplish this, then medical institutions need to do make some difficult decisions and find a happy medium.

Riley Schatzle
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