The Case for National Credentialing for Healthcare in Canada

The Case for National Credentialing for Healthcare in Canada
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Streamlining credentialing for healthcare professionals: Benefits, challenges, and opportunities for a national system.


In the field of healthcare, credentialing refers to the process of evaluating and verifying the qualifications and competence of healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals, to ensure that they meet certain standards and are qualified to provide safe and effective care. Currently this is a provincial responsibility. While the idea of national credentialing for healthcare is not new, there is increasing interest in Canada, where there are 13 provinces and territories with their own credentialing processes.

National credentialing would hold healthcare professionals to the same standards everywhere. This would mean that a physician licensed in one province or territory should be able to practice everywhere in Canada without additional accreditation. This would not only reduce the credentialing costs, but it would also help to ensure that patients receive consistent and high-quality care, regardless of where they live.

While the requirements and standards set by these different jurisdictions are generally consistent, the application procedures and supporting documentation do vary, making it difficult for healthcare professionals to work in more than one jurisdiction at a time. Thus, a physician licensed in Ontario may need to provide additional documentation in order to practice in British Columbia.

There have been calls for centralized federal accreditation to resolve these issues. It would enable healthcare professionals to work in multiple locations in Canada should they wish to do so. Such a system has the potential to reduce health care access gaps by encouraging more medical professionals to work in medically underserved regions, perhaps moving from one region to another to service seasonal shifts in population.

The implementation of a national credentialing system is not without its difficulties and possible drawbacks. The need for collaboration and coordination among the various accreditation organizations presents a significant obstacle. Some regions may be reluctant to relinquish their authority. Some differences make sense — for example, fluency in French in Quebec, and perhaps fluency in Inuktitut in the North.

Despite these challenges, I still think a national healthcare licensing system is a good idea. It would take some time to implement, but the outcome would be well worth it.

Another advantage would be the enhanced ability to collect and analyze nationwide data on healthcare professionals and healthcare services. These data could be used to inform healthcare policy choices, such as where and when to allocate resources for training and hiring additional personnel, in order to ensure that doctors and nurses are distributed in proportion to the general population to reduce healthcare accessibility issues.

In conclusion, the idea of a national accreditation system for healthcare has the potential to boost the standard, safety, and access to healthcare in Canada. Its implementation faces some obstacles, but the benefits make the effort worthwhile.