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COVID-19: Information for nurses

We at CNO are working quickly to help support Ontario’s health care system during this unprecedented and rapidly changing situation. To enhance Ontario’s nursing resources, we are: 

  • expediting registration for non-practicing nurses, including those who have retired or have an expired registration
  • implementing an emergency class for nurses who work or have worked in other jurisdictions in Canada or the U.S.

The Ministry of Health is looking for experienced nurses who can help prevent and control the spread of COVID-19. Visit their recruitment page for more information.

How to reinstate your CNO registration

You can reinstate if you are:

  • A current member of the Non-Practising Class who has practiced nursing within the last three years, or
  • A former CNO member whose membership status is Resigned or Expired, and who has practiced nursing within the last three years.

To apply to reinstate:

  • Complete and submit the online Reinstate my Membership form.
  • Pay the reinstatement fee. A refund will follow. To get you reinstated as quickly as possible, you will be asked to pay online, but we will refund you.
  • Evidence of practice: We may be able to obtain this evidence-of-practice information from our membership system. We’ll contact you if we require further details.
  • Police check: Resigned CNO members will need to provide a current police criminal record check using the online process. This can usually be completed in 2 to 3 days.
  • Practicing nurses must have professional liability protection. We encouraged you to consult with your employer and/or your professional liability protection provider.

To check your application status

  • Go to the Maintain Your Membership portal.
  • We are working as quickly as possible to reinstate those who qualify.

Registration validity

Your registration will be valid until December 31, 2020. At that time, you may choose to renew in the General or Extended Class or move back to the Non-Practising Class or resign your membership with CNO.


How to apply to the Emergency Class

You can apply for Emergency Class if you …

  • are not registered in Ontario, and
  • hold a valid RN, RPN/LPN registration in good standing in another Canadian or U.S. jurisdiction, and
  • you have completed a foundational nursing program that was approved by the jurisdiction in which you are registered, and
  • have evidence of practice (worked as an RN or RPN/LPN or completed a clinical practicum during your nursing program) in the last three years, and
  • are proficient in English or French. 

To apply for the Emergency Class

To check your application status

  • We will send you an email confirming receipt of your application.  If a preliminary review of your information indicates you may be eligible to register in this class, we’ll email you details of next steps.
  • We are working as quickly as possible to register in the Emergency Class those who qualify.

Registration validity

Your registration will be valid for 60 days but can be extended if the need continues.


Volunteering during the pandemic

Volunteering as a Non-Practicing nurse

  • A variety of activities or situations exist where a resigned or retired nurse could provide support. For example, a retired nurse volunteer can help in screening processes.
  • Only individuals registered with CNO can provide nursing care in Ontario. This includes any activity or situation (directly or indirectly) where you hold yourself out as a nurse or qualified to provide nursing services as described in the Nursing Act, 1991 Fact Sheet. For more information about what nursing practice is, please visit FAQs in the Declaration of Practice section in Ask Practice.


How students/new grads can help during COVID-19

Please visit For students & new graduates


Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Information on PPE

  • For information on the types of PPE to use and when, refer to  Public Health Ontario’s PPE recommendations. Continue to monitor this resource regularly, as recommendations may change.
  • Consult with your employer for additional institutional or organizational infection prevention and control policies and procedures on PPE.

If your employer runs out of appropriate PPE

  • Assess the need for PPE; not every patient care situation may require specific equipment. See the links below to assist in your assessment, including guidelines related to appropriate use of PPE.
  • Only conduct clinical assessments and collect specimens from at-risk patients in compliance with PPE guidelines and the latest guidance from Public Health or the Ministry of Health.
  • Voice concerns and advocate for quality practice environments, so that employers are better informed and able to respond to practice needs. Bring concerns forward to the broader health care team and discuss strategies on how to encourage the appropriate use of PPE.
  • If you continue to have concerns related to PPE, contact the Ministry of Health at EOClogistics.moh@ontario.ca

Relevant links:

Social Distancing

  • It’s part of a nurse’s professional accountability to role model and follow public health directives that keep their patients safe. We expect nurses to uphold public health guidelines on social distancing.

Self-isolation/self-quarantine after travel

  • On March 19, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a statement regarding health care workers who recently traveled. For other up-to-date information and resources on travel recommendations, please refer to:


Accountabilities of nurses during COVID-19 pandemic

All nurses are accountable to …

  • make decisions that are in the best interests of your patients and for protecting them from harm.
  • protect patients from infection risks. You can do this by:
    • applying hand hygiene principles
    • choosing appropriate measures to prevent and control infection transmission such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • understanding your workplace’s organizational policies about infection prevention and control
    • working with your employer to develop new policies as needed
    • using sources of evidence to inform your practice
    • To learn more, refer to Public Health Ontario’s novel coronavirus info page
  • Take action when patient care may be compromised, including identifying strategies to prepare for, reduce and resolve situations that may leave patients without the nursing services they need. This accountability is found in CNO’s practice guideline, Refusing Assignments and Discontinuing Nursing Services

We encourage you to work collaboratively with your employer to recognize real or potential threats, review relevant organizational policies, and if needed, develop policies and guidelines specific to your practice setting.

All Nurse Managers are accountable to…

  • access and share up-to-date, evidence-based information and guidelines with staff
  • provide staff with clear policies on screening and managing the outbreak
  • consider:
    • are there strategies in place for prioritizing patient care needs?
    • have you explored concerns with your staff and clearly communicated your organization’s plan to address these concerns?
    • have you included front line staff in the creation and implementation of these strategies?
    • is there a readily available system for replacement staff?
    • are strategies in place to facilitate the reorganization of workload, if needed?
    • are there clear policies and lines of communication for nurses to follow when staffing is short?
  • show leadership by working through dilemmas that nurses may have regarding assignments by following the decision-making process framework found on page 6 of the Refusing Assignments and Discontinuing Nursing Services practice guidelines. 

Working for multiple employers 

  • CNO does not limit the number of employers a nurse may work for.  
  • Inform your employer about all the locations at which you are providing care. Employers may have their own policies and procedures about staff working in multiple locations.
  • Review the letter from the Chief Medical Officer of Health (see page 2) and the Ministry of Health’s webpage for additional guidance.

Providing phone and video consultations to patients

Nurses providing care through telepractice are accountable for:

  • adhering to the principles outlined in the Telepractice guideline.
  • clearly communicating to patients the details of the care they intend to provide, including communicating the limits of any care provided through telepractice. Virtual care is not a substitute for attending an Emergency Department if urgent care is needed.
  • working with employers and broader health care teams to identify strategies to mitigate risks for delivering virtual care.

Providing nursing care to family, friends and neighbours

Nursing care in these situations should be limited to times where there are no other care providers available. Before providing nursing care, consider:

  • the advice of medical experts as it relates to COVID-19 (see the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 webpage, which is updated twice daily)
  • whether other care providers or care options are available
  • if you have the right authority to perform the procedure (for example, patient care order)
  • if you can communicate with the care team (for example, documenting patient care)
  • if you can manage potential outcomes of the procedure 

Relevant links:

Reassignment/redeployment to other roles or duties

  • As a nurse, you must ensure you have the knowledge, skills and judgement, and the appropriate authority before performing any activity or procedure.
  • If you are deployed to an area that you are not familiar with, consider:
    • Performing activities you are competent to do. For example, providing basic care to free up nurses with expertise to provide more complex care.
    • Your learning needs specific to the new practice setting. Are there ways to address them?
    • Discussing your competency and expected responsibilities with your employer.
    • Seek advice and collaborate with the health care team to uphold safe patient care and work together with other health care experts to improve your patients’ care.


Additional Resources: 


Information for Nurse Practitioners

Sending prescriptions to pharmacists by email

  • Unsecured email, texting and other digital platforms are not acceptable ways to send prescriptions, especially for controlled substances.
  • NPs should use appropriate channels, such as phone, fax or secure e-prescribing systems.
  • We understand this is an unusual time and if these methods of communication are not an option, please work with the pharmacist to identify the best way to meet patient needs.

Prescribing methadone and buprenorphine

  • For NPs who treat opioid addiction, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has new guidelines for prescribing and managing treatment with methadone and buprenorphine while adhering to social distancing and self-isolation measures. These guidelines “address office visits, remote visits, carry doses and frequency of urine drug testing.”
  • We encourage NPs to work with pharmacists and others on the care team who may be impacted by changes to a patient’s treatment regime.

Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin prescriptions

  • All drugs, including hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, should only be prescribed in alignment with current evidence.
  • Until there is supporting evidence, do not prescribe hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to prevent or treat COVID-19 as this is leading to drug shortages and may compromise care for other patients.
  • Nurses have an obligation to ensure that their practice and any treatment they prescribe is evidence-informed.

Health Canada exemptions for prescribing controlled substances

  • As part of its response to the containment of COVID-19, Health Canada is issuing exemptions for prescriptions of controlled substances under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
  • NPs can now temporarily issue verbal orders (for example, over the phone) to extend or refill a prescription to a patient under your treatment.

Relevant Links:

Page last reviewed March 27, 2020