Investigation launched into nursing exam results after more than half fail
Dozens of complaints have now been filed about the licensing exam
An investigation has been launched into why more than half of those who took the Quebec nursing licence exam earlier this year failed it, even as the province is struggling with a nursing shortage.
The commissioner for admissions to professions, André Gariépy, will take a look at the results of the exam, his office said in a news release on Monday evening.
Nursing students have told CBC Montreal that the exam, which is mandatory to obtain a nursing licence in Quebec, didn't reflect what they had been studying in school.
The nurses' order, known by its French acronym the OIIQ, said 54.6 per cent of students failed the licensing exam written at the end of September. For those who took the test for the first time, the failure rate was 48.6 per cent — the highest rate recorded in four years.
Since 2018, the success rate for first-time test-takers has generally ranged from 71 to 96 per cent.
Gariépy's office said media coverage and a recent deluge of complaints prompted the investigation. The commissioner, who oversees admissions to professional orders (including nurses) in the province, received 27 complaints about the exam in recent days.
The investigation will focus on the "various concerns that have been raised about the exam itself and the status of the candidates."
The commissioner encouraged nursing candidates who failed the September exam to sign up to rewrite it in March. They should also "review the feedback provided on individual performance at the September session," the commissioner wrote, and "review the guides and materials and participate in information activities to prepare for the exam."
Meanwhile, the OIIQ says it won't change its standards.
The nursing order issued a news release on Tuesday saying its exam was not different from past years and it was developed by a panel of experts from clinical and university settings.
"Additional resources" would be put in place to support students, the order said.
"However, relaxing the criteria is not being considered from a public protection perspective," it added. "Instead, we will focus on targeted support to enable all candidates to pass the exam in future rounds."
Nursing candidates have three attempts to pass the exam. The OIIQ said all candidates who failed the September exam received a response detailing why they failed and that there were online tools available to pass it, including a guide and preparatory workshops.
"We are confident that a return to in-person teaching, as well as support for students, will be a factor in success," said Luc Mathieu, the president of the OIIQ.
In a previous interview with CBC Montreal, Chantal Lemay, a spokesperson for the order, blamed the pandemic's effects on the students' learning environment for the poor test performances.
Joseph Oujeil, a nursing professor at CÉGEP du Vieux Montréal and CÉGEP André-Laurendeau, said he was surprised so many of his students failed the exam.
He said the failure rate was not normal and comes at a terrible time, as Quebec faces a nursing shortage.
"I think the average results need to be looked at," Oujeil said, suggesting the order make the passing grade 50 per cent instead of the usual 55 per cent.
He said students told him the exam "doesn't reflect the real reality of what we're teaching them in school or during their studies and it also doesn't reflect what they've seen in their clinical training."
Anyone with information about the exam or the status of those who took it can communicate confidentially with the commissioner by emailing email@example.com.
With files from Sarah Leavitt
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