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Registered nurses get expanded prescribing authority

More prescribing power will especially benefit RNs in long-term care home settings.
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THUNDER BAY — Registered nurses have received extended authorization from the province to prescribe and administer certain medications. 

In an announcement last week, the Ontario government expanded the role of registered nurses similarly to how pharmacists have been given the green light to treat specific ailments in patients, both through separate certification courses.

Diana Gowanlock, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit's director of health protection and chief nursing officer, is on board with the changes. 

"As a nurse, I find it exciting that a nurse will be able to prescribe medication with the health system the way it is right now and access to care. This will help. How it's going to help and where exactly this new step will be implemented, I think, is still a little unclear. I think there's still some conversations to be had," she said.

"But being able to offer prescriptions in certain situations is definitely a step in the right direction. And this will help free up physicians and nurse practitioners to see patients and clients that have more complex conditions."

There will be a wide variety of prescriptions available to patients, like birth control, drugs to stop smoking and travel medications. A registered nurse will provide topical wound care and various vaccinations once they become certified. 

Registered Nurses Association of Ontario CEO Doris Grinspun said the news has been well received by its members but wants it integrated into nursing programs.

"If we really want to make substantive change to the health system, it should be integrated by the end of 2024," Grinspun said.

Grinspun added that the changes will be beneficial in a variety of settings, including primary care, long-term care and home care, and help save time for other health care professionals like physicians and nurse practictioners.

The optional certification is expected to open for registration in January 2024, and the RNAO will also provide up to $1,500 in tuition reimbursement for registered nurses who take the course. 

In Northwestern Ontario, the dean of Confederation College's school of health, Negahneewin and community services said the school will be involved.

"We are a part of a college consortium group that is designing the RN prescribing courses for RNs currently being reviewed by the College of Nurses of Ontario," Shane Strickland said. "The courses will be offered through OntarioLearn, with placements to occur in local communities."

A complete list of what certified registered nurses can prescribe is available here

Katie Nicholls

About the Author: Katie Nicholls

Originally from central Ontario, Katie has moved here to further her career in the media industry.
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