Francophone nurses file language complaint over licensing exam
Nurses Association of New Brunswick says it's 'very close' to negotiating funding for translation
A group of francophone nurses in New Brunswick has filed a complaint with the province's official languages commissioner over an alleged "significant disadvantage" faced by nursing candidates who choose the French language for their licensing exam.
The complaint against the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB) was signed Wednesday in Moncton by several nurses from across the province.
The NCLEX-RN exam, created in the United States, and a lack of preparatory resources in French puts francophone nursing students "at a disadvantage in terms of access to the profession," said spokesperson Lise Guerrette Daigle.
"There is a real shortage of nurses," she said.
"We need to remove obstacles discouraging students from entering the field."
In a statement Thursday, the NANB said it believes it's "very close" to negotiating funding that would see the online study guide translated.
The cost will be "significant," it said, including the initial translation and adaptation, as well as annual charges for revisions and upgrades. No amounts were provided by the regulatory body.
The NANB said it has been lobbying for funding since 2015 and continues to lobby the current government with one other jurisdiction.
The Official Languages Act complaint comes as the provincial government tabled a strategic plan to address the nursing shortage in New Brunswick.
Among the action items is "enhancement of nursing education," including collaborating with stakeholders to improve processes related to the entry-to-practice exam, called the National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse, or NCLEX-RN.
"The labour shortage and difficulties of the environment already make the recruitment and retention of nurses very difficult," said Véronique Landry, another spokesperson for the francophone group.
"An entry-to-practice examination that discriminates against New Brunswick's francophones constitutes another challenge for our profession."
The group alleges several attempts to resolve the impasse with the NANB have failed.
"We hope to find a quick and effective solution to restore the confidence of francophone nursing students, one that protects their language rights," said Landry.
Earlier this week, NANB president Maureen Wallace acknowledged there is a lack of preparatory materials in both official languages.
"The preparatory questions and the examination as such are available in both official languages. Now we need to improve the accessibility of even more material in both official languages," she said.
A previous complaint to the Office of the Official Languages Commissioner over the licensing exam led to a damning report in May 2018.
"Francophone candidates are not on a level playing field compared to their anglophone counterparts," Katherine d'Entremont concluded.
The report cited two main problems: a lack of preparatory materials in French and flaws in the French translation of the exam.
In 2015 — the year provincial regulatory bodies outside of Quebec started using the NCLEX-RN exam — first-time success rates for University of Moncton nursing graduates taking the exam fell from 91 per cent to 32 per cent, according to the report. In 2016, the success rate increased slightly to 39 per cent.
In 2016, "due to lack of support for a collective funding effort," it worked with the exam provider to develop online practice exams in both official languages, which were published in 2017, according to the statement released on Thursday.
French-language modules developed by five nursing programs in Canada are available to students studying at French-language nursing programs, it added.
The nursing resource strategy focuses on recruitment, retention, promotion of the nursing profession, and enhancing nursing education and employment and work-life balance.
With files from Radio-Canada