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Nursing Roles

In Ontario, nursing is a profession with 2 categories – Registered Nurse (RN), which includes Nurse Practitioner (NP); and Registered Practical Nurse (RPN). Although all nursing students learn from the same body of nursing knowledge, RNs study for a longer period of time – allowing for greater depth and breadth of foundational knowledge; RPNs study for a shorter period of time, resulting in a more focused body of foundational knowledge. For more information, visit the College of Nurses of Ontario.

RPNs obtain a 2- or 3-year diploma in Practical Nursing.

RNs obtain a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing.

Autonomous practice is the ability to make decisions and independently carry out nursing responsibilities. The autonomy of the RPN is influenced by the complexity of the client's condition. RPNs have greater autonomy when caring for a client with less-complex conditions. As client complexity increases, there is a corresponding increase in the need for RPNs to consult with RNs. RNs autonomously meet the nursing needs of clients regardless of the complexity of their conditions.

Nurse Practitioners (NP)

NPs are Registered Nurses (RNs) with additional education and experience. They have and demonstrate the competencies to autonomously diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe pharmaceuticals and perform procedures within their legislated scope of practice. Learn more.

Latest Roles in Nursing

A key component of the HealthForceOntario strategy is establishing innovative, new health care professional roles in areas of high need, including:

Registered Nurse Performed Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (RNFS)
The RNFS pilot project involves educating Registered Nurses (RNs) to perform flexible sigmoidoscopies (i.e. a diagnostic procedure used to screen for abnormalities in the lower third of the colon) increasing patient access to colorectal cancer screening. RNs who are implementing this role have obtained specialized education and participated in training procedures prior to becoming independent practitioners.

Registered Nurse - Surgical First Assist (RN-SFA)
N-SFAs function collaboratively with the surgical team to achieve optimal patient outcomes. Creation of these positions supports reducing wait times for surgical services as well as recruitment/retention strategies by presenting nurses with new opportunities for career enhancement and development of new skills. To become a RN-SFA, a Registered Nurse with previous operating room experience obtains additional education in surgical first assistance.