FAQ for Canada: Substantially Equivalent Competence (SEC) Assessments

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    there have been many, many posts and threads looking for information on the substantially equivalent competence assessment. in an effort to provide all the most current information regarding sec in one place, i've received approval from the moderators of the international forum to post a sticky on the subject. the sticky must be on this forum and not the canadian one because canadian nurses, for whom the forum was developed, are not required to undergo sec and the vast majority of them have never even heard of it.

    first read: this!

    1. what is a substantially equivalent competence assessment?
    this assessment is a tool used by canadian nursing regulatory bodies (colleges of nursing) to assess the adequacy of nursing education obtained outside of canada where the submitted documentation of this education does not provide the information required clearly enough. the quality and completeness of documentation varies widely from country to country and there is often no other way to determine if the person's education and experience are comparable to those of canadian-educated nurses. the sec assesses your professional knowledge, skills and abilities. another name for sec that is being used by other provinces is capacity building for the internationally-educated-nurse assessment. cbia is based on the sec process developed by mount royal college in calgary, alberta. it's being used in manitoba, saskatchewan, british columbia, nunavut, northwest territories and yukon. nova scotia will not register any nurse who has not obtained a generalist rn education without assessment and additional education. their website is not clear as to the method of assessing education.

    2. i've already submitted all my paperwork to the college of nursing but now they're telling me i need sec/cbia. what's that about?
    the submission of paperwork is only the first step on what may be a very long and involved process. the college receives your paperwork in bits and pieces because they must have original documents from schools and regulatory bodies in order to prevent fraud. once all that paper gets to their office someone reads through it all to look for specific information related to your education and experience. they will be comparing the training you received with that of the province's own graduates, looking for differences. they look at your actual nursing experience to see if what you've done since graduation may have filled in any gaps there might be in your education as compared to a locally-educated nurse. if they find gaps that haven't been filled or there simply isn't detailed-enough information in your documents, they will then require sec/cbia.

    3. so just exactly what is involved?
    only those people referred to the assessment centre by the college of nursing will be permitted to schedule with the examination centre. (you cannot book yourself in for sec/cbia on speculation that they're going to want one, they have to send you for one.) the assessment is individualized for the candidate. not everyone will be assessed on everything; your assessment will be based on your areas of concern. canadian nursing education prepares students to be generalist nurses when they graduate so all canadian nursing graduates will have basic knowledge of each of the five main subspecialties of nursing: medicine, surgery, obstetrics, mental health and pediatrics. your assessment may be on any or all of these areas. the general sec/cbia assessment, which takes two days to complete and will be required for all referred for assessment, will include a written exam with both multiple choice and short answer questions. secondarily it will also assess your english skills because the questions will be written with the same complexity of language that the canadian registered nurse examination uses and your answers will need to be written using clear and professional english. you will already have submitted proof of an ielts band score minimum as required by the college of nursing; this english proficiency evaluation is completely incidental. (you might view this sticky as an english comprehension test. if you're reading this and don't understand what is said, you will have trouble with the written testing.) there will also be clinical practice evaluations done in a nursing skills lab, your critical thinking skills will be examined and your competence to practice assessed. the methods for testing these will include case studies and patient care scenarios. your actions and responses will be graded based on nursing knowledge, assessment skills, pathophysiology, pharmacology, use of technology, communication skills, ethics, knowledge and understanding of canadian nursing practice and cultural competence. focused assessments in the subspecialties will then follow if required. these focused assessments take 1 to 1 1/2 days to complete per specialty area. the focused assessments are conducted in the same manner as the general one. there are both written examinations and clinical assessments involved.

    4. okay, so what's this "triple jump" business all about?
    the triple jump interview assesses critical thinking skills and problem solving. you will be given a brief client situation and asked to generate a problem list/hypotheses about the client’s situation, identify and collect relevant data about the client/family, revise the problem list based on the data, develop an intervention/management plan and then self-evaluate. in the course of the triple jump your nursing knowledge, critical thinking, problem-solving, organization, self-evalution and self-directed learning capacities will be assessed.

    5. what's an osce?
    the acronym stands for objective structured clinical examination. it's a 1-3 day evaluation conducted in a lab setting where the examiner role-plays the patient/client/family member and you role-play the nurse. they'll be looking at nurse-patient interactions, critical thinking and clinical judgment, health assessment and nursing skills, nursing ethics, pharmacology and pathophysiology and your response to rapidly-changing situations.

    6. wow, there are a lot of things they're going to assess. how long will all this take?
    it may take as many as 5 full (8 hour) days, depending on just what you're being assessed for.

    7. who pays for all this?
    the province pays for the testing. the candidate pays for all other expenses involved (fees levied by the college, fees levied by cis, transportation, accommodations, meals, etc.) and may be partially reimbursed by their employer at a later date as part of a relocation allowance.

    8. what do i do if i fail my sec/cbia?
    you cannot fail sec/cbia. it's not that sort of examination. if there are areas identified where your knowledge base, skills or other competencies are not adequate, you will be required to attend university classes to obtain that knowledge before you will be permitted to continue in the pursuit of your canadian nursing credentials.

    9. will the examiner give me feedback during my assessment and when will i know my results?
    there will be no discussion of how you're doing and no hints as to how to meet expectations. you will have no feedback during or after the assessment and will have to trust your own judgment on your performance. your results will be sent to the college of nursing within 3-5 weeks after your assessment. the college will then notify you of the results and provide instruction as to what will happen next.

    10. how do i find out more?
    these websites contain detailed information regarding the assessment. the college of registered nurses of manitoba's website simply refers to the possibility that iens may be required to undergo an assessment at the health sciences centre in winnipeg. if you still have questions it would be best to contact the college of nursing or the assessment site directly for the most accurate and current information.
    http://www.nurses.ab.ca/carna/index....ructureid=2986
    http://www.mtroyal.ca/programscourse...ment/index.htm
    http://www.mtroyal.ca/programscourse...ions/index.htm
    http://www.srna.org/communications/n...tin_feb_09.pdf (see page 23)
    http://www.nursinginbc.ca/sec.aspx
    Last edit by janfrn on Jun 8, '11 : Reason: additional information
    alexis84, asf67, jazz1983, and 8 others like this.
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