Education for COVID-19 Testing

This guide contains the mandatory education and other resources required for Regulated Health Care Providers and Unlicensed Health Care Providers to implement COVID-19 swab collection.

Overview: COVID-19 Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is a key strategy in Nova Scotia’s Public Health response to the 2020 pandemic. Persons are tested for COVID-19 for the following reasons:

  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 
  • People who are at risk of severe disease
  • Exposure to COVID-19 (household contacts and people who spend time with others who are at risk of severe disease)
  • Employment or educational requirements (e.g. health care workers, military, university students)
  • Requirement prior to having a medical procedure (e.g. surgery)

For more information on testing:

In COVID-19 Testing Centres and other practice settings, regulated health care providers (i.e. Registered Nurses (RN), Physiotherapists (PT) and Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT)) can independently follow the provincial Care Directive to test persons for COVID-19. Other regulated health care providers, such as Licensed Practical Nurses and Dietitians, can also test persons for COVID-19 in collaboration with an RN, PT or RRT. Unlicensed health care providers (UHCPs) can be assigned the task of COVID-19 specimen collection from any regulated health care provider.

The main COVID testing offered at COVID-19 Testing Centres is PCR testing. During times of COVID surge, or as directed by Public Health, POCT testing may also be offered.

PCR Test

Also called a molecular test, this COVID-19 test detects genetic material of the virus using a lab technique called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The preferred PCR test in Nova Scotia is obtained by collecting a specimen using a swab, via the nasopharyngeal route (NP). Other options include a throat/nare swab, or a saline gargle test (available for children 4 to 18). Results are available in 24-72 hours. The PCR test is used as a diagnostic tool for COVID-19.


Rapid antigen testing has become a common tool for Nova Scotians to determine if they have COVID-19, helping to prevent further spread of the virus.

Rapid tests are safe, easy to use, and provide results within 10 to 20 minutes. Rapid tests (also referred to as Point-of-Care Tests) can be done at home by someone who is not a health care professional by using the swab in the kit to collect a sample from your throat and each nostril. It is very important to read the instructions carefully for the specific rapid test you are using because there are small differences between different types. Rapid tests can be used for all ages.

Please review:

COVID-19 PCR testing is available for adults via swab collection from the nasopharyngeal area or throat and nares. Children and youth from 4 to 18 also have the option of COVID-19 PCR testing via the saline gargle test. All health care providers must successfully complete the required education and skills practice prior to independently performing COVID-19 specimen collection. Education involves learning how to:

  • Follow all associated policies 
  • Properly wash hands
  • Put on (don) and take off (doff) personal protective equipment (e.g. gloves, mask, gown)
  • Follow infection control practices
  • Support the person with the procedure of COVID-19 specimen collection
  • Obtain a swab for COVID-19 via both the nasopharyngeal route and throat/nares
  • Obtain a saline gargle specimen for COVID-19
  • Send the specimen to the laboratory for processing
  • Support patient education
  • Collaborate with other team members
  • Site specific considerations


Patient education regarding test results and post-testing precautions is provided by regulated health care providers, but can be reinforced by UHCPs (i.e. providing patient education pamphlet). 


An Unlicensed Health Care Provider (e.g. Emergency Support Aide) should seek assistance from a regulated health care provider in the following circumstances:

  • The person has a question that is not covered in the patient education pamphlet
  • The person identifies a reason not to proceed with the COVID-19 swab collection
  • A safety concern arises during the specimen collection procedure
  • The person has physical abnormalities that keep you from swab collection

Definition of Regulated Health Care Provider (RHCP)

A college, association, board or other entity regulates the practice of the provider in the public interest by setting out the criteria for membership, a process for the investigation/resolution of complaints against members, and provides that persons who are not admitted as members may not engage in the scope of practice as defined in the governing statute. A regulated health care provider has a governing statute, a scope of practice as defined in its governing statute, and is guided by standards of practice and a code of ethics.

Regulated health care providers who are currently supported to participate in COVID-19 testing include the following: Nova Scotia Health/IWK Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practice Nurse (LPN), Advanced and Critical Care Paramedics (ACP and CCP), Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), Physiotherapist (PT), Nova Scotia Health Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), Nova Scotia Health/IWK Medical Laboratory Technologist (MLT), Nova Scotia Health Dietitian with additional education and training in dysphasia, Nova Scotia Health Graduate Nurse, Nova Scotia Health Graduate Practical Nurse, and Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) RN and LPN.

Definition of Unlicensed Health Care Provider (UHCP)

In August 2020, Nova Scotia Health launched an initiative to add COVID-19 testing to the scope of employment for trained unlicensed health care providers (UHCPs) in certain positions/practice areas. This will help to support current and future demands for COVID-19 testing and health human resources as we continue with our pandemic response in Nova Scotia. This practice is supported by policies, education/training, and support of local teams who are testing for COVID-19.

Nova Scotia Health is responsible to ensure UHCPs receive adequate education, training and support to provide safe care. The UHCP is accountable for completion of all mandatory education and for their individual actions or inaction in practice settings as per their scope of employment.

The practice of UHCPs is not set out in or regulated by legislation. UHCPs are accountable for their actions (which includes inactions) to their employer through a scope of employment, rather than a regulatory body (e.g. college, association). Individual UHCPs are always accountable for their actions (which includes inaction) and the decisions they make within their scope of employment. Examples of UHCPs include Continuing Care Assistants, Continuing Therapeutic Assistant, Emergency Support Aides and Medical Laboratory Assistants.

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