Career Insights with Sam and Rachel- Become a Nurse/Travel Nurse in Canada and Australia

The hospital is not a place you would want to be for any reason but when you have nice nurses attend to you, it makes a whole lot of difference.

The Nursing profession isn’t really for everyone. You definitely need to have a very high level of empathy, skill, respect and genuine care for others.

Overview of Canadian Nursing profession

As with most professions in Canada, the nursing profession is regulated by respective provinces,  with different albeit similar regulations. You need to familiarize yourself with regulations of the province you want to practise.

Canada recognizes three (3) major types of nurses, the Registered Nurse (RN) and the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) (Also known as the Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) in Ontario. The less common type of nurse is the Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN), mainly because it is only available in just four provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan).

The education required for the different types of nurses differ slightly.  This also varies a bit in the different provinces most especially in Quebec, the province with most french speaking residents.

Nurses are well compensated and respected in Canada and it is considered a prestigious profession. It is also great to note that it is a very high demanded profession most especially in the colder northern provinces/territories where you are most likely to get a job as a nurse.

“I had the opportunity to connect with two respected Registered Nurses, Sam and Rachel. They happen to have taken up the travel nursing path and are oh! living their dream. Imagine doing what you love and travelling the world as well, bliss!”

Meet Rachel

My name is Rachel Sullivan, I am a registered nurse, I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and also lived in Ottawa Ontario for about 6 years. I currently live in Queensland, Australia and have been living and travelling here for about two years.

I am also an American citizen, since my Mom is American. So I do have aspirations to go nurse in the US as some point in my career as well. I love that nursing is such a compassionate career. I feel like I am making a difference in people’s lives when I go to work. There is also such a variety of work opportunities with nursing and I love that it provides so many chances to travel and see the world.

Meet Sam

I am Sam Martin, I am from southern New South Wales, Australia and I have been travel nursing for two years. I love nursing because I get paid to help people, it supplements my lifestyle and at the same time I am helping people. It’s a continually growing environment and I’m always learning in my job.

Travel nurse
The travelling nurse in his scrubs
“If you would like to know more about the Nursing profession in Canada and Australia, keep reading.”

They explain the different types of nurses in Canada and Australia

There are two different types of Nurses in Canada RN (registered nurse) and RPN (registered practical nurse) in Australia RPNs are called EN (enrolled nurses). To become an RPN only requires three years in Canada and two in Australia and involves less theory study than becoming an RN.

This means a RN has a wider scope of practice than an RPN/EN. RPN’s/EN’s are not able to perform as many delegated tasks as an RN, and cannot administer all of the same medication as an RN or care of as complex/ acutely ill patients as an RN. RPN’s/EN’s are still a necessary and appreciated role in our healthcare system in Canada.

“The Nursing profession requires some level of education and training to enable you practise.”

Rachel shares a typical path to becoming Nurses in Canada and Australia

I attended The University of Ottawa for my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. To become an RN in Canada you must complete the BScN program at a university or college. Programs may differ slightly from province to province, but mine was 4 years long.

The first year was mainly health science classes like anatomy and physiology, or pharmacology, and the remaining three years included theory classes with corresponding labs and clinical portions in the hospital where you could put the theory into practice.

Once you complete your BScN you must sit the boards exam, which is now called NCLEX and with a pass score you can become registered in your province to practice nursing.

In Australia you must attend an accredited university program, same as Canada, however nursing programs are only three years in Australia. In Australia there are no boards exam, you just apply for your AHPRA nursing registration afterwards.

Your university helps you with this process in both Canada and Australia.

Nurse Canada

“If you’ve been to a hospital or clinic, you can attest that nurses are always busy. Thinking of becoming a nurse, keep reading to know what a day feels like.”

Typical day for Nurses in Canada vs Australia

Generally nursing is the same in both Canada and Australia. It really depends on where you are working, nursing can look very different if you are working in a hospital, a community or an office. 

A typical day in a hospital can also vary dramatically depending on what specialty you are working in.

Hospital nursing typically means hands on caring for patients which includes tasks: like assessing your patient and monitoring for changes, administering medications, performing delegated tasks (like inserting a urinary catheter or changing a dressing).

It could also involve assisting your patient with self care (cleaning or eating), collaborating with other interdisciplinary members (doctors, physiotherapist, dieticians, respiratory therapist etc.).

“For those wondering if you need additional qualifications to practise as a nurse, here’s what they have to say.”

Required qualifications and certifications to practise Nursing in Canada or Australia

You can work as an RN in Canada and Australia with only your BScN and license to practice. There are opportunities to specialize in certain areas such as critical care, wound care, diabetes etc. as post grad education if you like.

There are also programs available to get your Masters or PhD in nursing and/or become a Nurse Practitioner.

“Foreign trained Nurses, get in here for some advice”

Advice for internationally trained nurses

If you are coming from another country and want to study to become a nurse in Canada it is the same process as described above.

If you are trained as a nurse internationally you will have to contact the nursing licensure body of whatever province you want to work in and find out if your training is equivalent to that in Canada.

Even if your training is adequate you also need to complete the NCLEX and with a passing score you can apply for registration in that province.

In Australia if you want to work as an internationally trained nurse we have a blog post where we discuss exactly how it’s done:  

Basically, if you are thinking of working internationally as a nurse you will always need a nursing registration in that country, a valid working visa, and a job.

It depends on what your training is, what country you are travelling to and from how easy or difficult this will be. If any of your readers have specific questions about this they can contact us.

Searching for nursing jobs in Canada? This is a good place to start. 

This career series has made me appreciate the work a lot of people put into providing career information. Sam and Racheal do an excellent job on their platform, Go Anywhere Nursing.”
“If you want to know more about it, keep reading.”

What Go Anywhere Nursing is all about

We created a blog called Go Anywhere Nursing where we share our stories and travels as travel nurses. We hope to inspire other nurses to travel and facilitate their transition into the travel nursing world. It’s also a platform for us to share our travel experiences.

We are taking some time off work to travel over the holidays. When we return to Australia we have a massive trip planned. We will be travelling the whole country in a motor home, exploring the country and picking up nursing contracts along the way. Check out our blog or follow us on Instagram to follow our Australia Trip!

We were both drawn into travel nursing because we enjoy the spontaneity of the lifestyle and both love to travel.

Basically travel nursing is working as a nurse on a casual basis in more than one hospital/town/or even country. We discuss it in a bit more detail in this blog:

The main things to consider when travel nursing is getting your nursing wherever you are planning on working, getting a visa to work (if you are travelling to a new country) and finding a nursing agency who will find you work.

We discuss nursing agencies in Australia in this blog post

“If you are in a serious relationship or even married, you may be wondering what it entails if you decide to become a travel nurse”

Heres what Sam and Rachel have to say about it

We are a couple! Travel nursing is definitely a tricky profession when it comes to relationships. It is very helpful having a partner who is in the same profession and especially who you are able to travel with. Travel nursing could other wise be very taxing on a relationship.

“Who wouldn’t want a profession you love and travel while at it. Well, there’s also the other side to it.”

The Pros and Cons of travel nursing

Travel nursing does come with some pros and cons just like any career. It can be challenging as an agency nurse because you are not always guaranteed work, although we have never been short of work and always been able to find work in a place we want to work, as a casual employee there is no guarantee.

It can also be difficult having such a transient lifestyle and sometimes missing the comforts of home. However this also means that if its excitement and adventure you are looking for in life, travel nursing will give that to you!

It’s a great way to see the world and if you ever wish to settle for a little you can usually extend your contract and stay in one place longer.

A huge perk to travel nursing are the pay rates, its no secret that agency nurses get paid a much higher hourly rate than staff nurses and also often get their travel and accommodation paid for.

With casual work this means we often spend only about 6-8 months of the year actually working and the rest travelling and we are able to afford it.

Our biggest advice is if you are thinking about trying travel nursing is to stop hesitating and just do it! Sure it’s scary and there’s hundreds of reasons you could talk yourself out of it, but we bet there’s even more reasons we could talk you into doing it!

You never know what life holds for you or what you will learn about yourself until you step out of your comfort zone and try something new!

“Finally, there is a whole lot of information that can not go into one post, so if you would like to know more about this, please leave a comment or reach out. If you need more information on nursing in Canada, the Canadian Nursing Association is a great place to start”

Be sure to subscribe  and connect with Sam and Rachel  if you are interested in the Nursing profession in Canada and Australia especially travel nursing. They have a webinar coming up on Nursing in Australia,  sign up to get first hand information.

Connect on our instagram , facebook and twitter  and subscribe to get informed on more career insights posts coming up. We will be sharing on different career paths so do not miss out!


Career Insights with Anne Dang: Become a Physician Assistant (PA) in Canada

If you're reading this, chances are you found out about this new career insight series through our instagram page, facebook page or even our new twitter page. Even better, you've already subscribed and found out in the newsletter, if not, you can do so here , that way you do not miss out on any career you may be interested in.

So, if you are already subscribed, you must have gotten the insider scope about the new Career Insights series. Well, in this series, you will be getting loads of career and professional insights from industry experts, it is definitely going to be very informative.

You will get first hand advice on how to pursue your dream career, the steps to follow, academic requirements, advice for both foreigners and locals and much more.

This first feature is for two sets of people:

  1. If you're interested in pursuing a fulfilling career in an alternative medical field path other than the common routes and
  2. If  you are or planning to become a resident/citizen of Canada.

If this is applies to you, lets get started with Anne Dang of

Get to know Anne Dang

Hi! I’m Anne, a Canadian Certified Physician Assistant currently working in the Orthopaedic Surgery Practice. I’ve been practicing for 6 years, and I write about the Physician Assistant (PA) profession on my blog, the Canadian PA .

I enjoy advising PA students through the McMaster PA Student Advisor Program, working as a clinical preceptor for Canadian PA students who are completing 2nd year rotations in Orthopaedic Surgery. I volunteer a lot of my time working on PA Advocacy for the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants (CAPA), coaching PA students.

I’ve been involved in graphic and web design since the age of 12, through self-teaching. Although my parents really encouraged me to pursue a career in health care, I have always found a way to stay involved in the world of web and graphic design. I’ve found a way to combine my love for tech, social media and medicine into a way that helps others interested in pursuing the PA profession.

Outside of work I enjoy crafting, graphic and web design, volunteering and outdoor activities.

"I am personally very impressed with what she has done in the Physician Assistant field, her selfless contributions, advocacy and mentorships. You can find out more about Anne here .

Just like me, there are a lot of people who are not very aware about the Physician Assistant medical route in Canada."


Anne shares why most people are not aware of Physician Assistants in Canada

Physician Assistants in the civilian setting was only recently introduced into Canada and Ontario. They have a longer history in the Canadian military, and have been around a few decades in Canada. I think the fact that the profession is still being pioneered is a factor.

Another factor is that, there are currently 600 PAs across Canada, with 300+ being concentrated in Ontario, whereas, there are 82,000+ physicians in Canada in family medicine and medical specialties. Source . Also, there are are 298,743 nurses in Canada in 2016 according to the Canadian Nurses Association.  Source

Groups like physicians and nurses are more well known because of how long they have been around, the large numbers that are working and practicing in Canada. Newer less common roles such as Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistants are not as common and therefore not as well known.

Anne teaching hand anatomy during an injection workshop Ottawa, ON for the Canadian PA conference.

"As the name suggests, a lot of people may be tempted to think all PAs do is assist Physicians and most likely do the same thing as Nurses. Well, that is not the case."

The similarities and difference between  related medical careers

Physician Assistants (PA) are more similar to physicians (MDs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) than they are to nurses. Patients may see a PA or NP instead of the physician for their primary care or specialty care needs.

PAs, NPs and MDs take histories and perform physical exams, order and interpret investigations (like x-rays labs, etc.), they diagnose, and perform an assessment plan. They also prescribe and set the treatment plan.

PAs do a lot of the same tasks as physicians do (as mentioned before - history taking, physical exam, diagnosis and treatment  - but may autonomously in collaboration with physicians. PAs and MDs are also both educated in the medical model.

Registered Nurse also do some assessment and planning, and helping carry out treat plans set by the physician. They work to monitor symptoms, collect vital signs, do general assessments and exams, and prepare patients for exams and treatments. Nurses also do their own assessments and nursing treatment plans based on the nursing model.

It is important to note that Physician Assistants are NOT medical assistants, medical secretaries / administrative assistants, personal support care workers, or a “doctor” in training.

Excerpt from my post on What a PA is not :

PAs are trained under the medical model, nurses are trained in the nursing model. Nurses may choose to pursue PA school or Nurse Practitioner (NP) school. There are some of my PA colleagues who were registered nurses before becoming Physician Assistants.

Read The Differences between Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants .

PAs do not compete for nursing jobs, as PAs do not do the same clinical duties as nurses. PA scope of practice is very similar to Nurse Practitioners more than it is to Registered Nurses. In the United States, there are some practices that advertise for a PA or NP for the same position.

Nursing duties can be divided into four major categories:

  1. Assess patients’ physical, mental and emotional health status. This includes taking history & performing basic physical exams and ensuring appropriate medical documentation throughout the patient’s stay.
  2. Carrying out physician orders for ordering investigations and initiating a treatment plan. This can mean administering medications, wound care, starting an IV, and injections.
  3. Monitoring results of treatment and alerting the physician of any untoward outcomes.
  4. Patient and family education, counselling on treatment plan and preventative health. (Source)

Physician Assistants (PAs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) would perform detailed patient assessments (histories and physicals) and initiate orders as an extension of the physician.

Nursing staff may often consult with PAs and NPs for the supervising physician’s patient (as they would consult with residents, fellows or clinical clerks).

These advanced practice providers (APPs – the PAs and NPs) have medical directives and/or a document signed off by authorizing officials (e.g. hospital or department staff, supervising physician, department lead) which outline the APP’s scope of practice.

PAs are trained as generalists, which means they can enter any specialty of medicine - whether it is Family Medicine, Emergency, Hospital (internal medicine, etc.), or in specialties like Orthopaedic Surgery, Plastic Surgery, Rheumatology, Urology, Dermatology, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Psychiatry, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Oncology, etc.

"She has a whole lot to share on this, make sure to check her website for more details, I am personally impressed with the amount of useful information she provides and the amount of work she has done to promote the PA profession. is a wealth of knowledge."

Physician Assistant infographic


"If you are interested in a typical practical path to becoming a PA, Anne shares her educational experience below".

How I became a Canadian Physician Assistant

At the time I was in the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program at McMaster University, almost all of my peers were applying for medicine, with a smaller minority aiming for other health care professions such as Pharmacy, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, etc.

I knew I wanted to practice medicine, but I wasn’t sure if “being a doctor” was the right fit for me. Especially looking at the work-life balance and stress I had seen in physicians that I was working with in my summers as a research assistant on a clinical trial.

I attended career info sessions (e.g. Naturopath), career fairs (visited booths on Chiropractic Colleges), went to the Pre-Med club to listen in on the different medical programs in Canada.

The first time I heard about the PA program was while I was sitting in the BHSc office speaking with my guidance counsellor. She had mentioned a graduate from the program was a 1st year student in the PA program - the more I looked into the Physician Assistant profession, the more the career resonated with me. Once I sat down and spoke with the 1st year PA student, and attended the info session I knew this was my first choice after completing my 4 year degree.

I applied to McMaster’s PA Program during my 4th year of university. I completed the supplemental application, attended the Multi-Mini interview and started the program in September 2009. At this time Manitoba already had its PA program starting, and University of Toronto would accept their first class in January 2010 (back when PA Consortium had a January start, now it is a September start).

I wrote a post about the Canadian PA school admission requirements . However to summarize it here, the PA route depends on which school you are applying to. McMaster, for instance requires minimum 2 years of university completed, GPA of 3.0 and supplementary application to be completed before an invitation of the MMI.

PA Consortium, which is a combination of University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine and Michener Institute requires a minimum GPA of 2.7 (at time of writing, November 2017), full  hours of health care experience (which can be paid, clinical placement, or volunteer - refer to their website for the most accurate up-to-date information) with some recommended course work to be completed, in addition to letters of reference.

University of Manitoba offers a Master’s PA program, requiring candidates to finish 4 year Bachelor’s degree or higher (no later than May 30th) of the year you hope to enter the MPAS program, police check, letters of reference,  achieve a 3.0/4.5 GPA scale in most recent 60-credit hours, and complete University of Manitoba Faculty of Graduate Studies application. They also have criteria for “competitive” applicants, achieving a GPA of 3.5 or above, completed courses in Biochemistry, Human Anatomy and Physiology with minimum grade B.

Note: Some of admission requirements may change or evolve over time.

"Find out more about a typical day of a PA on, a lot of experts share their experiences.

You may want to get information on career development and growth as a PA in Canada, keep reading".

Required certifications and trainings for PAs

Multiple and endless certifications, masters, Phd. are not necessary. Although in some areas of medicine (for example, Emergency Medicine), candidates may benefit from having a recent ACLS certification, CPR certification - health care provider level.

The University of Manitoba offers a Master’s Degree in PA Studies. The two Ontario Programs - University of Toronto and McMaster University offer Bachelor’s Degree. Whether you have a Master’s of PA studies or Bachelor’s does not matter when it comes to PA employment.

The only factor affecting potential employment is obtaining your PA Certification. Canadian PA graduates and American pAs looking to practice in Canada must register through the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants to write the certification exam. Once you pass, you are considered a “Canadian Certified Physician Assistant (CCPA)” . In order to maintain this designation, you need to complete a certain number of continuing medical education (CME) hours per 5 year cycle.

"A number of foreigners or people looking to move to Canada may be considering a career in the medical field or/and specifically as a physician Assistant. Anne has some advice for you".

You may want to get information on career development and growth as a PA in Canada, keep reading".

Foreigners and immigrants who would love to practise as Canadian Physician Assistant

For all Canadian PA programs you need to be a Canadian citizen or obtain permanent resident status. Before you apply ensure you meet the minimum English language requirements (i.e. a certain score on TOEFL exam).

Once this is accomplished, you may now start looking at Canadian PA school admissions. Realize that PA role is NOT a bridging program to practice as a physician in Canada. You can look into other roles such as Clinical Assistant program in Manitoba, other bridging MD programs offered to International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in provinces and areas that are underserved. I’ve written about options for IMGs on

As a PA you are not an independent practitioner. PAs work in collaboration with a supervising physician. Therefore you can only perform delegated duties that fall within the scope of your supervising physician.

For example, if you learned a previous skill where you were performing a paracentesis as an IMG, but you know work as a Canadian PA in a family practice. If your supervising physician does not perform paracentesis, you cannot perform that paracentesis in that setting as a result.

Physician assisant
Being a PA includes History taking, Physical Examinations, Investigations, Diagnosing, Treating, prescribing, and performing procedures. A large part is also patient education, which PAs play a large role in. In my role in the Orthopaedic Surgery Practice I educate patients about their conditions, what to expect before and after surgery, about treatment options (operative vs. non-operative) and about their medications. I counsel patients on positive lifestyle changes, smoking cessation and the impact on healing post-operatively

"Why then should you pursue a career as a Physician Assistant?"

Here are a few reasons Anne loves her profession and why it's totally worth it

  • Less than a decade in school before practicing medicine - I enjoy the PA role because the duration of the program was 24 months and I was “done”. I could start working as staff after 2 years.
  • Lateral Flexibility - I loved the lateral flexibility as well. Should I decide not to work in Orthopaedic Surgery anymore, I can make the switch to Emergency, Family, Dermatology etc. without having to go back to school. At present this is not possible with physicians unless you go back to residency or complete special fellowships as an extension of your family practice degree.
  • Work-Life Balance -  I like the work life balance as well. Although 2nd year PA school was very rigorous with shift work and , once I started working I had regular hours. I have time for activities outside of work.

"There is a lot more information on renumeration, medical field comparisons, typical day in the lives of PAs  and so much more on "

  • Finally, we stop here with Anne Dang of , I am sure if this is your career of interest you have learnt a lot and also visited her site already. 

    I hope you enjoyed this and gained a lot of information, do subscribe to get notifications of more posts like this, I will be sharing on a wide range of careers, most especially in Canada but hopefully other parts of the world as well.

    Please leave your comments, thoughts and questions. Feel free to reach out if you have any further enquiries or career paths you need insight on.

    There's a new career insights post coming up next week, you don't want to miss it!  Can you guess which career we will be sharing on next ?