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Nova Scotia speeding up processes to get U.S, British, Irish, Australian and Kiwi pharmacists to work

The new streamlined pathway, which is also open to pharmacy technicians from Great Britain, exempts applicants from these countries from the national licensing exam and internship requirement.
Beverley Zwicker, CEO and registrar, Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists

Pharmacy professionals looking to come to Nova Scotia from the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand now have an easier path to practice in the province.

On Dec. 5, the Nova Scotia College of Pharmacists announced a new, streamlined licensing pathway that would do away with the national licensing exam and internship requirement for pharmacists from these countries.

Pharmacy technicians from Great Britain would also be eligible to apply through the new pathway.

Applicants from these places would instead be required to complete an open-book jurisprudence exam, pass a criminal records check and present a certificate of good standing from their countries of origin.

“We've known for a while that having one licensing pathway for all international pharmacy professionals suggests that education, licensing and practice in all countries outside of Canada is the same and that none meets Canadian standards—we know that isn't true,” said NSCP CEO and registrar Beverley Zwicker. “We also knew that there certainly were countries where the educational standards, the licensing process and the standards of practice are equivalent and in some cases are even at a higher standard than in Canada. So that being true, then it made sense for pharmacy professionals who hold a license in that country to have the same licensing pathway as a Canadian.”

Read: The little province that could—and did

The licensing pathway change was made possible by the recently established provincial Patient Access to Care Act which, among other things, reduced administrative barriers to bringing in healthcare providers from other jurisdictions. For the college, the Act removed the need to submit regulatory changes that would open the doors wider for out-of-province pharmacy professionals, said Zwicker.

Nova Scotia currently has more than 160 job vacancies for pharmacists and more than 200 for pharmacy technicians. Beyond filling these spots, the new streamlined pathway for international pharmacy professionals will help the province to expand pharmacy practice into primary care.

“We need pharmacists and technicians in the province to be able to fill those vacant positions but there are also these other positions that they would readily be put into, and that would support this expansion,” said Zwicker. “The province is realizing the tremendous value of having pharmacists in the healthcare system and having them used as healthcare professionals meeting primary care needs, particularly those related to medications, and then wanting to expand that to all communities across the province.”

Zwicker pointed to a number of relatively new primary care innovations in the province where pharmacists play prominent roles. These include pharmacist-led primary care clinics—including some without dispensaries—and multidisciplinary clinics with pharmacist team members.

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“And then we have our virtual care health platform that currently have physicians and nurse practitioners providing care. Pharmacists should be added to this platform but again there’s not enough for them to hire,”said Zwicker.

To support the new licensing pathway, NSCP and the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia launched an international recruitment campaign, which includes a website where interested pharmacy professionals can get information. There’s also a dedicated recruiter—called an RxNS Career Navigator—to help match applicants to employers, work through immigration and get relocation support, including finding housing.

Zwicker said the province will continue looking for ways to ensure Nova Scotians have access to the healthcare services they need.

“We will continue to look at our international licensing pathways to identify where a further tailoring can be put in place,” she said.

Read: N.S. pilot clinics to expand scope of practice for pharmacists, freeing up busy ERs

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