A group representing Francophone nurses in New Brunswick believes inequality in nursing education should be an election issue.

Groupe d’Infirmières et Infirmiers Francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (GIIFNB) is calling on political parties to fix what it claims are language barriers that make it difficult to complete nursing studies in French.

GIIFNB said students can get nursing education in English or French, but the final registration exam favours English students.

As the province grapples with a nursing shortage, GIIFNB President Lise Guerrette Daigle said the exam does not adhere to the Official Languages Act, leaving Francophone students at a disadvantage.

“Students do not have access to the same number of resources to prepare for the exam,” said Guerrette Daigle.

“A lot are turning towards studying in English and writing the exam in English at this point. That should not happen.”

The exam, known as the NCLEX, is from the U.S.

Guerrette Daigle said some of the terms used in the exam are different than the ones students learn. She also claims there have been errors in the NCLEX translation into French.

As a result, nearly half of the French-speaking nursing candidates choose to write their registration exam in English.

Marie-Eve Beaulieu could be among that group soon.

The fourth-year nursing student at Université de Moncton has studied exclusively in French, but said she is “leaning toward” taking the final exam in English.

“I want to finish it all off in French and be proud to say I did my nursing school in French and passed my NCLEX in French,” Beaulieu said. “But I don’t feel like that’s an opportunity for me.”

“I don’t feel like my chances of succeeding are as high as in English.”

The Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB) regulates the exams used in education. Global News reached out to NANB but did not receive a response.

GIIFNB Vice President Véronique Landry said an alternative to the NCLEX-RN exam was made available in January.

“Indeed, the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) has developed an exam that reflects health care and nursing practice in Canada. This exam, developed for and by Canadians, rigorously meets all psychometric criteria and assesses candidates for the nursing profession with the competencies required to ensure the protection of the population.”

“In addition, the preparatory tools for this exam are the same for both linguistic communities,” Landry said.

Suzanne Harrison, director of the School of Nursing at Université de Moncton, said nurses have been trying for five years to get the exam changed — without success.

She said it’s time for political intervention.

“We’re trying to say, ‘You know what, government? We’ve been fighting with them for five years now to have equal rights for Francophone nurses and it’s not happening, so we think you need to step in,’” Harrison said.

“We think you need to have a talk with the nursing association and say, ‘Why aren’t you recognizing this alternative exam?’”

Harrison believes it would “solve a lot of problems” and potentially lead to larger class sizes in her program.

GIIFNB leaders say they hope to see this issue brought up during the ongoing election campaigns.


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