August 20, 2019
You enjoy working with people to help them with their health care needs and you’ve worked in the industry before, just not in British Columbia, Canada. If you’re an internationally-educated health practitioner (IEP), it can be hard to know how your education and experience apply when you come to Canada and want to continue working in the health care field. How do you transfer health care experience from another country or region to BC?
Fortunately, there is an organization ready and able to help you find your way and your fit in the health care field here in BC. The Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS) provides a three-part competency assessment program for IEPs (including health care assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and psychiatric nurses) who want to practice in BC.
If you’ve been trained in other parts of Canada or have taken a break from your health care practice, NCAS can provide you with an assessment as well. Their services aren’t just for IEPs. Learn more about NCAS on their official website.
NCAS offers the only competency assessment service in BC that gives applicants the ability to request an assessment of their skills for two different roles in the health care field during one assessment program. That means that those who have previously worked as a licensed practical nurse can have their skills tested for competency as a licensed practical nurse and as a health care assistant at the same time. Therefore, if your skills aren’t at the level necessary to work as a licensed practical nurse in BC, you may be able to do so as a health care assistant. This allows you to continue working in the health care field, gain valuable experience in BC and potentially work towards increasing your competencies to become a licensed practical nurse in the future if you choose to do so.
Understand the NCAS Process
NCAS works on a three-part system to find out if your competencies are at the necessary level to practice in the health care field. It begins with a referral to the Nursing Community Assessment Service from one (or both if being assessed for two health care roles such as nurse practitioner and a registered nurse) of two regulatory organizations. These are the BC Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry and the BC College of Nursing Professionals. Contact one or both organizations to determine their requirements for a referral. Once the organization’s needs have been met, they can submit the referral directly to NCAS.
If you want to apply for an assessment for two roles, it is important to make that decision at the start as it will save you time and money. Find out how dual-assessment works here.
Once your referral(s) arrive at the Nursing Community Assessment Service, you will receive confirmation and sign the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and submit it to NCAS. When your NDA is processed, you will receive two separate emails. The first will ask you to pay for the Computer-based Assessment (CBA) and the second - for the Simulation Lab Assessment (SLA) and the Oral Assessment. You don’t need to pay for and schedule the CBA and the SLA/Oral Assessment at the same time. In fact, NCAS encourages you to take the CBA first as it will help you prepare for the SLA and Oral Assessment.
Part two is to pay for the CBA. Once paid, you will receive another email with links to schedule the assessment. The CBA is a three-hour computer-based assessment of your knowledge, skills and competencies as a nurse practitioner, healthcare assistant, registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or other health care professional. This assessment conducted by the NCAS doesn’t have a pass or fail, but instead identifies the gaps and strong areas you possess in the health care field you want to enter. Only Prometric Test Centres offer the CBA and it is structured like a typical computer-based exam with a proctor.
While you can do the CBA at around the same time as the SLA and Oral Assessment, it is advised to take the CBA first then schedule and take the SLA and Oral Assessment second. The SLA and Oral Assessment are taken together in person, at Langara College in Vancouver. When you’ve paid for your SLA and OA, Langara College will contact you to make arrangements for the testing.
The SLA and OA are three to six hours and are held in a nursing simulation lab with four different stations focusing on individual clinical scenarios. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your practical abilities to conduct assessments, perform nursing interventions, communicate and make clinical decisions. You will either work with a pre-programmed mannequin or an actor trained as a patient to simulate the care needed in the situations outlined. An assessor will observe your work in the lab as you care for the patient.
After each simulation in the SLA, you will deliver a three-question oral assessment (taking about 10 minutes each) outlining critical decision making. The assessor asks structured questions to understand and measure your decision-making and thought processes during the simulations.
Once all three components are completed, the results from each will be compiled together into an individual report. The report is used to make a decision about your registration and both you and the regulator or registry will receive this report from the Nursing Community Assessment Service.
Preparation for Testing
Like with any exam, preparation is key. Those in the healthcare field are required to know and apply a great deal of knowledge, but a testing environment often throws people off and makes it difficult to illustrate information they know. There are a number of tips and tools to help you prepare for the CBA and SLA/OA tests at the NCAS website. Go to the what to expect section of the website to find out more about the formats of the exams.
Additionally, there is a number of orientation videos and sample questions to help you that are available on the website’s how to prepare section.
Exam fees vary depending upon the role being tested for but range from $800 to $2,000 for all three evaluation tests.
If you love the health care field and know that your skills are ready to be applied in the BC health care industry, taking the assessment testing offered through NCAS is a great way to return to the work you want to do.