I am a rising college senior who is trying to decide if I want to become a nurse or a physician assistant, and am inclined to choose nursing school since I am a dual citizen of the US and Canada, the latter of which has only 3 program for PA schools (which are considered undergraduate) but has ample graduate programs for nursing schools. It is significantly cheaper for me to go to school in Canada than in the states, but I want to learn more about the differences between the fields and how financially savvy it would be to pursue school in Canada versus the US. Thank you for any advice!
The first question you need to answer is: where do you want to practice?
US trained PAs can be licensed and practice in Canada, but Canadian trained PAs cannot receive a US medical license and practice in the US.
US trained nurses have licensing reciprocity in Canada (means they are eligible for a Canadian nursing license if they have a valid US nursing license). The reverse is not true for Canadian trained nurses. Because each state has its own licensing rules, some states will recognize a Canadian nursing license (CT, NC, NM), but the rest will require passing the NCLEX at a minimum.
US licensed Canadian trained nurses are eligible to pursue advanced practice nursing degrees in the US.
Nurse vs PA–this is personal decision. These are 2 very different career paths with different approaches to treating patients and different levels of responsibility.
Read about nursing here: https://explorehealthcareers.org/field/nursing/
Read about PA here: https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/medicine/physician-assistant/
Before making any final decision, I strongly suggest that you talk with several nurses ad PAs about what they like/don’t like about their jobs and shadow individuals in both fields.
Be aware that PA school in the US requires several hundred to several thousand hours of paid hands on healthcare experience as a pre-requisite for admission.
I would talk to many folks in both fields. Ask them a lot of questions. Also compare salaries and cost of education. Also ask them how they are treated by others in the field including doctors, specialists, other nurses etc.
Thank you so much for this detailed answer. I really appreciate it. It is so hard for me to decide right now where I would rather work- Canada or in the US. However, given the fact that the schooling to become a nurse would be so much cheaper in Canada, and would not require additional healthcare hours, that this answer is already made for me based on financials. Do you think the non-reciprocity of Canadian nurses seeking jobs in the US will ever end?
@WayOutWestMom do you have any personal insight to shed on this? You seem to be quite knowledgeable on the fields
No, simply because nursing licenses are issued by state nursing boards-who are free to set any criteria they want for issuing a license-- and always have been. I don’t foresee anything changing anytime in the near future.
Also every state in the US requires nurses to pass the NCLEX as a condition for licensing. I’m frankly surprised that 3 states will license Canadian trained nurses without it.
RE: additional hands on experience is only required for PA school in the US, not for nursing school. If you hold a BA/BS in bio, there are fast-track Bio-->BSN 15 month nursing programs in the US. These don't require any prior healthcare experience. See: <a href="https://www.allnursingschools.com/bsn/accelerated-nursing-programs/">https://www.allnursingschools.com/bsn/accelerated-nursing-programs/</a> Be sure to check those out before you make any final decision. You should also be aware that any federal students loans you take out for a BSN degree are eligible for the federal student loan forgiveness programs. (Requires 10 years of on-time minimum loan payments PLUS 10 years of working at a non-profit organization.) You can also work in federally designated medically underserved area (mostly rural locations but there are some urban sites) and have your loans forgiven much more quickly--in as little as 2 years depending on the term of your service.
NURSE Corp Loan Repayment Program