CASN Releases New Strategic Plan and Identifies Changes Needed to Ensure Quality Nursing Education in the Future

November 29, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) issued a statement today announcing the release of a bold and courageous strategic plan for 2023–2028 and identifying the changes needed to ensure delivery of quality nursing education in Canada. The plan includes the following CASN objectives:

  • Advance Indigeneity, equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and anti-racism among students, clinical teachers, faculty, and staff.
  • Lead excellence in nursing education nationally, contribute to its advancement on the international stage, and promote nursing scholarship.
  • Collaborate with nursing education colleagues across the country on politicized advocacy at all levels of government to enable nurses to thrive through their education into practice.
  • Promote national standards of educational excellence that foster the best in nursing at each level.
  • Co-define new models of clinical and interprofessional education alongside practice partners and nursing students and promote mentorship as a responsibility among all nurses.
  • Reimagine and support nursing education required for advanced practice, leadership roles, and specialization that are emerging in the Canadian health care system.

Schools of nursing face significant funding barriers. Enrolments have increased to address an acute nursing shortage. Funding models, however, often fail to cover the increased costs of educating expanding cohorts of students for a highly complex health care system. “We need to be proactive to ensure that funds specifically targeted to schools of nursing increase the schools’ budgets as intended,” said CASN President, Alice Gaudine.

Governments and employers are pushing schools of nursing to shorten education programs for registered nurses and prepare new graduates to handle the caseload of an experienced nurse on entering the workforce. Registered nurses are first and foremost knowledge workers and critical thinkers who make significant, often life-or-death, decisions, in complex, evolving clinical contexts. They require a solid, high-calibre education, as well as support and mentorship on entering practice to ensure patient safety.

Because of an acute shortage of clinical placements, schools of nursing have been providing students with innovative, practice-based learning experiences through simulation. To do so effectively, they require significant funding for well-resourced simulation centres, staffed with appropriately trained instructors.

Despite limited funding, schools of nursing have been promoting Indigeneity through co-developing and implementing curricular changes and teaching strategies, in partnership with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities. The aim is to meet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action in a manner that is authentic, nation-based, community-driven, and decolonized. Greater public support is needed, however, to sustain innovative nursing education programs and increase the number of programs, providing First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students living in rural and remote areas with greater access to nursing education.

When considering barriers to the nursing profession that are not related to resources, CASN highlights that the NCLEX exam disadvantages those whose first language is not English. Moreover, while passing this exam is a mandatory licensing requirement in most Canadian jurisdictions, there is a lack of evidence showing that a licensing exam improves patient safety. Countries where new graduates are not required to pass a licensure exam, such as the United Kingdom, have seen no evidence that this compromises patient safety.

CASN’s new strategic plan envisions a united nursing education system that is inclusive, equitable, diverse, innovative, and adequately supported to produce competent nurse graduates who are mentored and prepared to care for Canadians across the complex and evolving health care landscape.

About the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN)

The Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing is the national voice for nursing education, research, and scholarship and represents baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs across Canada. CASN’s mission is to lead nursing education and nursing scholarship in the interest of healthier Canadians.

For more information:

Cynthia Baker, CASN Executive Director
Alice Gaudine, CASN President

Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing
Telephone: (613) 235-3150