Want to be a registered pharmacist in Canada?
Let’s get down to it. The how’s, the requirements, and all the other details.
What are the basic requirements?
You should have a bachelor’s or doctor’s degree in pharmacy from one of ten Canadian universities (The universities are listed here). You probably don’t have it and are already feel like you’re wasting your time here. For non-natives, there is a way which does not require graduation from specific Universities.
That way is to clear a national board examination through PEBC (Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada). This is applicable to all provinces in Canada except Québec. The province of Québec has a different procedure for selection and licensing.
Experience and Language
And, inevitably, you need 2 things. One is experience garnered from apprenticeship or something of the sort. The second is language (which is to be expected). You need to be fluent in either English or French which are the most used languages in Canada. We’ll discuss more about ‘fluency’ later.
Why French though? Well, remember Québec? French is used more than English in the province. They do have separate procedures. But, some provinces do require a certain level of fluency in French.
What is with all the provincial stuff? Thing is this licensing is not controlled by one body throughout the country. Rather, it is done by authorities within provinces. So, each province has different requirements to be a pharmacist in their region. But, you still got a central, single examination which has already been referred to.
Not to worry. Canada has only ten provinces and three territories. And, the differences in requirements are not major and. There are just minor differences with a lot of similarities.
Another thing of note is that you won’t have any advantage if you passed out from an institution which has International Accreditation by the CCAPP (Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs). So, everyone has an equal footing. Your skills and demeanor determine your licensure.
Steps to be taken
The first step is to enroll in NAPRA’s (National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities) Pharmacists’ Gateway Canada. This is mandatory for all international pharmacy graduates (IPGs). Even here, Québec is an exception. Licensure in Québec does not require enrolment in the Gateway.
Without enrolling you cannot move onto the next steps. Enrolling in the Gateway gives you a national ID number, which is essential in the next steps.
The second step is to apply to the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC). Here is where the national ID number’s importance comes into play. During the various stages of examination conducted by the PEBC, the results are made available to the authorities through a repository which is organized by this ID number.
This makes it easier for the authorities as well as candidates to track their progress.
The PEBC certification process
International pharmacy graduates (IPGs) have to go through three stages of examination before they can become licensed pharmacists in Canada.
To make sure that the candidates’ education is at par with the Canadian standards, the PEBC may ask the candidates to produce documents which will be evaluated and if deemed satisfactory enough, they will be allowed to move to the next stages.
What is the minimum requirement here? A four year undergraduate degree in pharmacy is the minimum requirement for licensure.
And, another thing to note is that, the next stage must be completed within five years of document evaluation, after which the results of the document evaluation will be considered expired.
Once you’ve cleared the document evaluation stage, your prowess in various subjects will be tested. The subjects are biomedical sciences; pharmaceutical sciences; pharmacy practice; and behavioural, social and administrative pharmacy sciences.
The number of attempts is limited to three for this stage. A fourth attempt will be allowed following a petition and producing documentation of having undergone and successfully completed a bridging programme.
The qualifying examination is the third and final stage in the PEBC certification process. The examination itself is further divided into two parts.
The first part is MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) based. The test can be taken either online or offline.
The second part is an OSCE (objective structured clinical examination). Here, candidates are put in simulated environments and their caliber is put to the test. As such, this must be done in person (meaning no online mode).
A maximum of three attempts is allowed for each part of the examination. You can attempt the parts in whichever order you please. You don’t necessarily have to complete part 1 to move to part 2. However if you have failed once Part 2, you will have to pass Part 1 to undertake the Part 2 examination again.
There are no scores for the examination. In your profile which was discussed in the first and second stages of getting licensed, it will be merely shown as passed or failed.
The PEBC Certificate of Qualification is a requisite for getting licensed in most Canadian provinces. This does not mean you can practice once you’ve cleared the PEBC certification process
Candidates must apply directly to the PRA (Pharmacy Regulatory Authority) in the province in which they want to be licensed in addition to applying to the PRA through Pharmacists’ Gateway Canada.
Before getting to that, let’s take a look at ‘fluency’ which we have put off until now.
Language Proficiency standards have been set by the NAPRA (National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities). The speaking, reading, writing and listening skills of IPGs will be tested and only if standards are met will they be provided a license.
The fluency of language goes beyond vocabulary and command over the language. You may be very good in, say, English (one of the two languages, either of which you have to be proficient in). But, you must also know Canadian slang terms which may be used in certain places.
In addition to slang terms, you must also be able to understand gestures commonly used by Canadians. Gestures play a very important role in communication, maybe even more than words. You must have the ability to understand a person without the use of spoken words.
Why is fluency so important?
Patients usually look to pharmacists to talk about their problems and it is up to the pharmacist to assess the situation and provide a solution. Sometimes, pharmacists must also act as counsellors to patients and maybe even to their families. This is why a huge importance is placed on fluency and proficiency in language.
As part of the licensing process, IPGs must also prove their knowledge of Canadian laws regarding federal and provincial drug and pharmacy practice. They must also be well versed in regulations and the code of ethics for the province to which they are applying.
The last thing is the licensure itself. The PRA (Pharmacy Regulatory Authority) will confirm whether the candidate has successfully completed all of the requirements to be licensed. And, if they have, a fee will be charged for the license which must be renewed each year (a fee must be paid each year which is different from the amount that must be paid initially)
Those who wish to practice are also required to purchase and maintain personal professional liability insurance coverage, which helps pharmacists pay legal costs in the event of a lawsuit.
How long does it take to get licensed?
On average, a person takes 26 months to get licensed in Canada as a pharmacist. But, it all comes down to the individual. Sometimes you make take less or more depending on your skill level, knowledge and language proficiency.