Foreign Pharmacists – How Can They Practise in Canada?

Job prospects in Canada are excellent for foreign pharmacists. But how can they get their license to practice? What are the specific requirements in Quebec? And how should they prepare to get set up?

Overview of the process

To demonstrate their ability to adapt to Canadian standards, a foreign pharmacist has to go through many steps, including mandatory registration (except in Quebec) at the Pharmacists Canada Portal. This will be followed by an analysis of his file, then assessment and aptitude examinations by the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC). Additional training may be necessary to succeed. The candidate will then have to satisfy the requirements of the pharmacy regulatory body in the province or territory where they wish to settle, and perform an internship.

Specifics in Quebec

The Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec offers two options to foreign pharmacists: go directly to passing the PEBC exam, or completing the pharmacy qualification program at the Université de Montréal. A simplified course is offered to French pharmacists, with their officially recognized diploma allowing them to go directly to the Federal oral aptitude examination. Finally, the candidate must complete a 600 hour internship and master French to obtain his license.

Some tips for success

Thomas Weil, a French pharmacist who has settled in Montreal, has learned some things from his career:

• Planning your immigration: “Take the examination dates into account to plan your arrival,” Thomas recommends, because they are held twice a year. This will prevent you from extending your wait time.

• Be prepared and remain humble: “Say that you are here to learn and set your self-assurance aside, because there are very real cultural differences.” Thomas decided to take a position as a technician while he was waiting: “This experience helped me understand pharmacy in Quebec, including the communication aspects.”

• Be patient. The procedure takes from a few months to a year, even more if you don’t pass the exam. “It is often frustrating not to be able to give advice to patients during this period,” says Thomas.

• Anticipate a substantial budget. Each step has a significant cost, which varies depending on the province and potential training.

The process is therefore long and arduous. Nonetheless, says Thomas, “it’s worth the effort, because here a pharmacist has a real role to play in caring for the patient.”

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