Careers: C.A.R.E. for Nurses

by Theresa Wojtasiewicz

As an immigrant, and a woman, there were times when it would have been easy to give up. But having a program like C.A.R.E. provided the support that I needed to continue moving forward. Now that I'm working and my family has a sufficient income, we are able to take part more in the community. My five-year-old son will be a real Canadian as he has started to play hockey this fall for the first time!
- a satisfied programme participant

You have been trained as a nurse in your country of origin, and you would like to work as a nurse in Ontario. However, when you apply for work, you are told you need to be registered to practice. What do you do?

Your first step is to contact the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) (www.cno.org). The CNO is the regulator that oversees nurses and their qualifications. They have two assessment packages for internationally trained nurses. If you have a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (a four-year university degree) or equivalent, ask for the RN (Registered Nurse) package. If you have a three-year diploma, or if you are anxious to get into the workplace quickly, ask for the RPN (Registered Practical Nurse) package. You can still apply for the RN package later.

Once you have been assessed, your next step will be to prepare to take the exam. But doing this on your own can be difficult. To help you, the CNO will give you a letter telling you about C.A.R.E.

What is C.A.R.E.?

C.A.R.E. - Creating Access to Regulated Employment - is a program developed by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration to help newcomers

qualify to practice nursing in Ontario. The program began in 2001, and since then, over 700 nurses with international experience and training have taken their registration exams and have found work.

What does C.A.R.E. offer?

  • Individual counselling
  • Educational, emotional and financial support
  • Exam preparation including upgrading knowledge and skills
  • Help with building English language skills, especially the language used in the nursing profession in Canada
  • Advice on how to look for work, including résumés, cover letters and other employment skills
  • Job shadowing in hospitals or other health care facilities
  • Group activities such as social events and training workshops

Before C.A.R.E. was created, only 32-35 percent of internationally trained nurses were able to pass their exams. Now 80 percent of those helped by the C.A.R.E. program pass, and 90 percent of those who pass have jobs within three to six months.

How long is the program?

It is as long as you need it to be. You can be ready to take your exam in as little as four to six months, depending on how much you need to do to upgrade your knowledge and skills. If you have family commitments or other circumstances which prevent you from attending classes full time, then the program might take about 15 to 18 months.

How much does it cost?

The membership fee is $100. Costs for courses are extra. Your counsellor can help you arrange for financial assistance if you need it.

How do I contact C.A.R.E.?

C.A.R.E. serves all of Southern Ontario. If you are interested in attending an information meeting and live in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), you can call them at 416-226-2800. For those who live outside of the GTA, you can call the C.A.R.E. office in Hamilton at 905-521-1777. You can also e-mail them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Information meetings are free, and are held on a regular basis. To find out more about C.A.R.E., visit their website at www.care4nurses.org.

If you want to put your experience as an internationally-trained nurse to work in Ontario, C.A.R.E. will help you to come up with a plan for you to reach your goals in a way that is best for you.

If you live outside of Ontario and want to know if your province has a program like C.A.R.E., contact the nursing regulator in your province, or your provincial Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

CNM