How bridge programs can empower internationally-educated nurses (IENs) to reach their career goals in Canada: Four tips to help you choose your path

Published May 2, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In summary:
  • Bridge programs for internationally-educated nurses (IENs) can support you on your path to getting licensed in Canada, but it's important to understand the cost and time commitment required.
  • You don't just apply to a nursing bridge program. First, you need to get your credentials assessed by the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS, except in Quebec) and then find out what competencies you may still need to demonstrate according to the regulatory body in the province where you wish to work.
  • Reputable bridge programs often align with the licensing requirements of the nursing regulator in your province.
  • Be sure to explore financial supports available to you, like government grants or an affordable loan from Windmill Microlending.

For internationally-educated nurses (IENs) in Canada, the path to reaching your career goals doesn't have to be taken alone. Across the country, nursing bridge programs can help you on your journey to get licensed, find employment and achieve the career success to which you aspire.

What is a bridge program?

Many IEN bridge programs provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to become a nurse in Canada. Often, they help newcomer health care professionals better understand the Canadian health care system, including regulations, ethics, safety, and cultural competencies. They also explore issues relating to language barriers and cultural differences. Some offer qualifying examination preparation and job search, resume, interview, and networking support.

More importantly, many bridge programs can be completed in a year or less, depending on the competencies you need to demonstrate.

The steps on the path to becoming a licensed nurse in Canada can be complicated. Let us walk you through them with our Educational Pathways for Skilled Newcomers. Click here to view our selection of career paths for skilled immigrants and download yours today.

Nursing bridge programs can be invaluable for IENs in navigating the complicated path to licensure in Canada but they can also require significant time and financial commitments. On an episode of the Nursing the Future podcast, Edward Cruz, an IEN and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at Ontario's University of Windsor, shared tips for choosing the right bridging program.

Before you apply for a bridging program

An important consideration for IENs (outside of Quebec) before pursuing any bridging program is to have your existing credentials assessed by the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). It's also important to contact the college of nurses (the nursing regulator) in your province or territory, learn about your specific education requirements. This is usually outlined in a letter of direction sent to you from the nursing regulator in your province. In a previous blog post, we shared five tips for IENs on how to get licensed as a nurse in Canada.  

Here are four things to look out for when choosing a Canadian nursing bridge program.

Find a bridge program recognized by the provincial regulatory body where you wish to live and work

Ensure the nursing bridge program you select is approved or endorsed by the nursing regulator in your province. Their courses should align with the professional requirements for nurses in that jurisdiction and prepare you with the knowledge you need to get licensed.

Look for bridge programs associated with universities, colleges or designated government-funded organizations

Bridge programs should be associated with reputable post-secondary education institutions or government-funded organizations. Given the time and funds required to complete a nursing bridge program, you want to ensure you're associating yourself with an established school or program. Do your research and be wary of programs that promise quick results at low costs and show no affiliation with the province's nursing regulator.

Decide about full-time vs. part-time bridge programs

It's important to consider what kind of commitment you can make. Some nursing bridge programs are full-time commitments, while others are part-time. Increasingly, many institutions are offering some bridge courses virtually, while some will require an in-person presence. Make sure you find out what kind of time commitment and virtual/in-person learning models to expect.

Prepare for the costs

While in Quebec, the nursing bridge program at CEGEP John Abbott College is tuition-free, thanks to government funding, many other programs across the country can cost thousands of dollars. An affordable loan from Windmill Microlending can help you pay for these costs as can provincial government grants like those offered in Ontario, specifically for skilled immigrants and refugees.

Want to find out if you’re eligible for a low-interest Windmill microloan of up to $15,000? Complete our two-minute eligibility quiz. Click here to get started.

We’ve put together a list of some nursing bridge programs, across the country, that may be able to help you become a nurse in Canada. Many of these institutions have strong track records of empowering IENs with the information, skills and tools they need to succeed as nurses in their new country.


Mount Royal University: Bridge to Canadian Nursing Program

British Columbia

Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Graduate Nurse, Internationally Educated Re-Entry

Langara College: Nursing Practice in Canada


CARE Centre for Internationally-Educated Nurses

Ontario Internationally Educated Nurses Course Consortium

Ontario Colleges – Listing of nursing bridging programs

New Brunswick

New Brunswick Community College: IEN Bridging Program

Newfoundland and Labrador

Centre for Nursing Studies: IEN Bridging/RN Re-entry Program

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

RN Bridging/Re-Entry Program


Red River College: Bridging Pathway for Internationally Educated Nurses


CEGEP John Abbott College: Professional Integration into Nursing in Quebec for Internationally-Educated Nurses


Saskatchewan Polytechnic: Registered Nursing Bridging Program

Territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut & Yukon)

Currently, there are no bridging programs based in these territories.

Categorized in: Career Success and Planning, Accreditation and Licensing, A Newcomer's Journey, In-demand Jobs,