New Brunswick

Nurses association sues language commissioner over nursing exam report

The New Brunswick Nurses Association is asking the Court of Queen's Bench to dismiss the findings of the former commissioner of official languages in her report on the licensing exam taken by nursing graduates.

New Brunswick Nurses Association alleges scathing report was flawed and inaccurate

The New Brunswick Nurses Association has asked the Court of Queen's Bench to dismiss language commissioner's findings about the NCLEX-RN accreditation exam. (CBC)

The New Brunswick Nurses Association is asking the Court of Queen's Bench to dismiss the findings of former commissioner of official languages ​​Katherine d'Entremont on the licensing exam nursing graduates have to take to enter the profession.

In a notice of complaint, the association says the investigation conducted by d'Entremont's office was neither complete nor impartial.

The report includes inaccuracies, the complaint says, and the commissioner's office violated the Official Languages ​​Act by not giving the association an opportunity to respond to allegations about the licensing exam.

The association added that the language commissioner's findings and recommendations were flawed or unreasonable because they were based on an erroneous or unreasonable interpretation of the Official Languages ​​Act.

D'Entremont's office investigated because graduates of the University of Moncton nursing program were not doing well on the national exam.

After the NCLEX-RN accreditation exam was introduced in 2015, the school's success rate went from high to one of the worst in the country. More than half of the graduates were failing.

The nursing association, which regulates the profession in New Brunswick, did not respond to a request for an interview on Friday. 

Asked for a comment while he was campaigning for re-election, Liberal Leader Brian Gallant would not comment because the case is before the courts but said in French that his earlier comments still stand.

Considerable gap

In May, the premier asked the nurses association to take steps to ensure the exam was fair to both francophones and anglophones. Benoît Bourque, the minister of heath, announced in June that a working committee would try to find a solution.

While the exam is developed in the United States, it is edited and translated by Canadians in Canada.

Forrmer language commissioner Katherine d’Entremont said in her report there was a considerable gap between English and French in the NCLEX-RN exam preparation resources. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

As a result of its investigation, d'Entremont's office concluded there was a considerable gap between English and French in the preparation resources for the NCLEX-RN exam.

According to the language commissioner, English-speaking students have access to a wider range of materials, such as higher-quality exam simulations.

Translation weak

The language office also concluded that the translation of certain questions for the French version of the exam left something to be desired, particularly because the questions were handled by people who were not always certified translators.

The commissioner noted in her report that first-time success rates for University of Moncton graduates dropped from 91 per cent in 2014 to 32 per cent in 2015. 

The success rate for University of New Brunswick graduates on the first attempt in 2015 was 58 per cent higher.

A year later, the success rate for University of Moncton graduates at the first attempt was 39 per cent compared with 71 per cent for UNB graduates. It was 40 per cent in 2017.

In May, the Société de l'Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick and the student federal at U of M said they would sue the nurses association.

A pan-Canadian committee is also working on the creation of a bilingual end-of-study exam for nursing students. This alternative examination could be offered as early as 2020, across Canada.

D'Entremont retired as commissioner in July. 

With files from Radio Canada