Thank you for inviting us today, honourable Mr. Chairperson and committee members. My name is Laurie Janes. I represent the Nurses Association of New Brunswick, NANB. We are the regulators of nursing in New Brunswick as well as an association.
We're here today to discuss the continued delivery of safe, competent nursing in New Brunswick and the introduction of a new exam and the impact of that exam in our province.
New Brunswick is a small, rural province with a population of only 750,000. Approximately 30% of New Brunswick residents are francophone. We have two health regions. One delivers services primarily in English, the other primarily in French. Our French health region is the only health system offering all services solely in French outside of Quebec. Many residents served by this health authority speak only the French language.
The Nurses Association mandate is to regulate nurses to provide safe, competent, and ethical care in the interest of our public. We believe that safety is optimized when nurses can provide services in the patient's language of choice. In fact, in New Brunswick the language of choice is a right; we are the only bilingual province in Canada. All public service is mandated to be bilingual, that is, to be delivered in either French or English, as the patients and their families wish.
In 2012, all jurisdictions in Canada signed a contract for a new entry-to-practice exam, the results of which would determine whether our nursing graduates could become licensed to work as registered nurses. Representing the sole bilingual province, NANB requested that French-language resources be supported during an RFP process for the new exam. When the exam provider was named, there were no French resources included in the proposed contract.
In 2015, the first year the exam was written in Canada, the exam provider published a new online resource for nursing students. We were advised of this by a student studying for the new exam. It was published in English only. Later, in September 2015, NANB was advised that only 32% of the francophone nursing graduating class had passed the exam. The 2016 results were not much improved.
There was a resource provided through the previous exam for French-language students. There are some resources provided now. We don't believe resources or translation is the issue.
The NCLEX exam, as our new exam is named, has been written in the United States for 20 years. There is a host of published evidence clearly indicating that non-English and minority groups do not do as well as students who have English as their primary language. Further literature informs us that these same students are often held back from graduating or drop out because of progression policies implemented by nursing programs that must meet performance targets in order to receive continued funding.
New Brunswick's population is a small one to draw on for our French-speaking nurses. Because of this, French students may meet, but may not succeed, required university admission criteria. Additionally, they must concurrently study language while also studying the requirements of a nursing degree. For some graduates, this translates into lower academic achievement than is required to succeed in passing NCLEX, and this is the experience faced by non-English-speaking and minority groups in the United States.
New Brunswick is hearing anecdotal information that in some areas of Canada, our indigenous nursing graduates are also having difficulty in passing NCLEX. This is a matter of concern in a country that welcomes diversity.
We have explored, and explored intensively, the opportunity that Quebec might afford us to partner with them. However, l’Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec is currently in a transition in their exam. They're moving to a computer-based exam and are looking at a different blueprint, as it's called, for their exam.