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CNO to start work on RN prescribing

On June 28, 2017, CNO received a letter from Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, directing us to start the work necessary to enable RN prescribing.

“As you are aware, the government has passed the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017 which, amongst other things, provides the authority for RNs to prescribe drugs in certain circumstances,” the letter states. “As is the case with all scope of practice-related activities, the College will need to develop the necessary regulations, competencies and educational requirements to operationalize these legislative changes.

“I am therefore asking the College to begin the work necessary to enable RN prescribing in order to ensure those services can be delivered safely and competently by RNs as soon as possible.”

The Ontario government approved changes to the Nursing Act on May 17, 2017. The changes permit RNs to prescribe medication according to a list, and to communicate a diagnosis for the purpose of prescribing medication. The recent letter outlines the parameters the government wants the College to consider.

Although the government has approved changes, RNs do not yet have the authority to perform either of these activities. This will happen only when the College creates new regulations to support RN prescribing under the Nursing Act.

Diagnosing and prescribing are high-risk activities. To protect the public, the College is accountable for implementing this change to RN scope of practice safely.

As part of our preparation work, the College will consult with a broad range of stakeholders. We will ensure that the public and other stakeholders know:

  • how to identify an RN who is authorized to prescribe medication
  • what to expect from an RN prescriber, including which client populations they treat and which medications they prescribe
  • where to go if they have concerns about an RN prescriber
  • how an RN prescriber differs from other nursing roles

The College will also provide the proper regulatory oversight to protect the public’s right to safe nursing care, while supporting the goal of improving access to medication. 

In the coming months, our Council will review the evidence and feedback to make decisions about:

  • the new RN scope of practice and how it fits with other nursing roles (such as NPs)
  • practice requirements, including the medications that RNs are authorized to prescribe
  • the education that RNs will need to safely communicate diagnoses and prescribe medications
  • requirements (such as education) that RNs must meet before gaining access to the new controlled acts
  • requirements for maintaining ongoing competence through our Quality Assurance Program 
  • professional liability protection, and more

Council will discuss RN prescribing at each of its future meetings. Find out about them here.

Check this website, as well as our Facebook page and The Standard for regular updates as this work develops.

Page last reviewed June 29, 2017