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CNO authorizes first Registered Nurse with prescribing authority: A milestone in healthcare

CNO is marking a significant milestone in healthcare as we begin to authorize Registered Nurses (RNs) to prescribe medication in Ontario. 

Under regulations approved by government in Nov. 2023, RNs in the General Class who meet specific requirements gained the authority to prescribe certain medications and communicate diagnoses for the purposes of prescribing those medications. 

“RN prescribing represents a forward leap in nursing practice, empowering RNs with the knowledge, skill and judgment to assess, diagnose and treat defined non-complex conditions,” said Silvie Crawford, CNO’s Executive Director and CEO.  

To qualify for prescribing authority, RNs must meet specific requirements and complete CNO-approved education. Georgian College, one of the schools offering an approved RN prescribing program, is currently seeing RNs graduate from their program. 

“We are thrilled to offer this groundbreaking new program aimed at enhancing local patient care by expanding the capabilities of Registered Nurses. This innovative course is a testament to Georgian’s enduring commitment to fostering excellence in nursing education and cultivating a strong nursing workforce within our community,” said Kevin Weaver, President and CEO, Georgian College.  

Cyril Lee Turley, who completed the program at Georgian College, is the first RN to become authorized. “It’s really rewarding to be able to prescribe and save our patients some time. Why not expand so our patients have easier access to vaccines and certain medications that they need in a timely way?” he said, adding to be the first person with this authority is “exciting and pioneering.”  

There are currently four CNO-approved RN prescribing programs offered in colleges and universities across the province. Programs are offered using a virtual/hybrid format, making them accessible to nurses, even those in remote communities. This flexibility allows RNs to independently progress and complete the program at their own pace. 

“Our government has been taking bold action to ensure more Ontarians can conveniently connect to the care they need, closer to home,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “I’m delighted to see our innovative changes coming to life by congratulating Lee Turley as the first Registered Nurse in Ontario authorized to prescribe medication, which will mean faster and easier access to care for families.” 

Patients, healthcare professionals, employers and others can confirm that an RN is authorized to prescribe medication by checking CNO’s public register, Find a Nurse.  They will find a notation confirming the RNs prescribing authority. 

Employers play a key role in ensuring that RN prescribing is appropriate and safe in the practice setting. This includes providing the necessary resources to support RNs with this authority. In some cases, legislation or employer polices will not permit RNs to prescribe. For example, the Public Hospitals Act prevents RNs from ordering treatments for hospital patients.  RNs will need to work with their employers to ensure that RN prescribing meets with employer requirements. 

With this new authority increasing accessibility to healthcare, CNO encourages patients and caregivers to inquire about an RN’s authority to prescribe and engage in conversations about their healthcare options. The public can also look up information about a nurse on the public register.

Page last reviewed February 28, 2024