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Nursing Designations in Canada

Up in the Great White North, things run a bit differently. When I started researching my career options, specifically as an LPN, the information that I found painted a vastly different picture than what I was expecting.


The scope of practice was minimal. No patient education, no clinical skills like IVs or wound care, some basic assessments only, & no meds. Not to mention an upsetting amount of discussion on whether LPNs were even nurses at all. It was such a stark contrast to what I thought an LPN did that I questioned whether it was the career choice for me.

Anyway, this is the point where I emphasize the importance of always checking your sources.

Turns out everything I had been looking at was all US-based, where LPNs have entirely different programs & educations than LPNs in Canada. But I didn't know that & it made me think that others might be in the same position.

In the States, there are 2 kinds of RNs & then LPNs:

  1. Bachelors of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN)- a 4-year degree & NCLEX

  2. A deeper understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathology, & pharmacology, among other classes

  3. Critical care

  4. Treatments & patient/family education

  5. Independent practice

  6. Associates Degree in Nursing (RN-ADN) - a 2-year diploma & they still take the NCLEX

  7. More skills focused program

  8. Treatments & patient/family education

  9. Independent practice

  10. Certificate in Practical Nursing (LPN) - usually under a year & NCLEX-PN

  11. Hands-on patient care

  12. Vital signs

  13. Monitoring

  14. ADLs

  15. Under the direction of an RN

Whereas north of the border, the designation of RN is reserved for those with a BSN. Or LPNs who take a bridging program - but you get the point.


Considering we share the world's longest border & similar characteristics (given healthcare definitely isn't of them), I assumed designations would cross seamlessly. Many people move between the US & Canada; it just made sense in my mind that these titles & scope would be the same in both. Especially since Western medical practices are pretty much the same if we ignore the accessibility issue, of course.


So basically, the (very generalized) comparison between US & Canadian designations are as follows:


US Canada

RN (BSN) →→→→ RN (BSN) - no change here

RN (ADN) →→→→ R/LPN - drastic scope changes based on province

LPN (Certificate) → HCA/CNA


You may be thinking to yourself, "well, ya, you didn't know this?" To which I shamelessly say I had no idea. Which means maybe someone else might be just as confused as I was.

I kept running into this problem of ending up on US resources because I couldn't track down a centralized list comparing all Canadian nursing roles. Information was there obviously, & in time I did find it. But the labyrinth of webpages to get it all was so complicated & difficult to manage. Anyone going through the same motions as I did might miss something or have incomplete information when comparing their options to enter the world of nursing.

That's where this comes in: one site-one page that compares the most vital information between the clinical careers that keep our health system flowing.

I spent hours researching so that you don't have to - figure out what path fits you best at this stage of your life.

Comparisons of scope, employment options, education, licensing process, & pay for HCAs, LPNs, RNs, RPNs, & NPs. Want to do more research yourself? No worries, I kept my resources & you can find them on the 'Everything Inbetween' page.

So. Let's get started, eh?

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