Recognize Registered Psychiatric Nurses from Western Canada in Ontario and Across Canada.

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It is one thing to hear that a person who received medical training in another country is driving a cab in Toronto. But it's another to learn we are missing out on the expertise of trained Canadians.

The mobility of Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) in Canada is a long standing issue. Currently, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is directly blocking Registered Psychiatric Nurses from practising in Ontario. The CNO states "we only recognize nurse generalists, not nurse specialists". The CNO is the single nursing regulator in Ontario and the regulator holds a very high amount of power in the province. Currently the CNO uses legislation that does not include specialized nurses. An amendment is needed to The Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and The Nursing Act, 1991 to include specialized mental health nurses. The purpose of a regulatory body is to protect the public. By not recognizing specialized Registered Psychiatric Nurses, the CNO is not protecting the best interests of the Ontario public and those individuals that are experiencing persistent and severe mental illnesses.

To clarify, inter-provincially the nursing designations are different. In Ontario the designation RPN stands for Registered Practical Nurse. In Western Canada, practical nurses use the designation LPN or Licensed Practical Nurses and the Registered Psychiatric Nurses use the RPN designation.

The major difference is the amount of time Practical vs. Psychiatric nurses spend in educational programs. A practical nursing program is a 2 year program (5 semester) and a Psychiatric Nursing program is a 4 year Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing. The diploma (6 semester) program is being phased out. A Psychiatric Nurse would practise in the vast area of addiction and mental health nursing only where as the practical nurse and the Registered Nurse could work in general/medical/surgical settings.

In Western Canada, Registered Psychiatric Nurses are the largest single group of mental health professionals. Equivalent to a Registered Nurse by pay band and bachelor level of education, but specializing in psychiatry and viewing the client holistically. RPNs understand that a "one way narrow-minded approach" does not work for individuals experiencing an addiction and/or mental illness.

Registered Psychiatric Nurses are recognized in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and in the Yukon but not in Ontario!

With opiate addiction and mental illness on the rise in Ontario and Canada, Registered Psychiatric Nurses are needed. Ontarians deserve the equivalent level of care that other Canadians are receiving.

About RPN's
Since the 1920s, Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) have been an indispensable part of psychiatric and mental health services delivery system. In the last 80 years, RPNs have built a record of providing high standards of skilled and compassionate care for persons with medical, mental illness or emotional problems.
​There are over 6,000 Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada. Psychiatric Nursing is recognized as a distinct health care profession in Canada and many other countries – a profession that is growing and adapting to meet the changing needs of individuals, families, groups and communities as well as the health care system.
What is an RPN

A nurse who takes into account the mind, body, spirit of all persons, groups, communities and populations with whom they are working.

What do they do

Psychiatric nurses work with clients whose primary care needs relate to mental and developmental health.  Psychiatric nurses recognize the complex relationship between emotional, developmental, physical and mental health, as well as the role that social factors, culture and spirituality play in illness and recovery. 

RPNs work in clinical environments and in team settings. They need to continually exercise sound judgement in making decisions and solving problems to meet clinical challenges and the health care needs of patients/ clients. With their specific education and experience, RPNs provide crisis and treatment intervention on a daily basis. They must possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills.

RPNs work in settings that provide challenging and rewarding experiences. What RPNs do day to day, depends on where they work and can include: Psychiatric hospitals, hospital emergency rooms, forensics, child and youth programs, general hospitals, geriatric units, substance misuse programs, intermediate care facilities, community mental health & addiction settings, corrections, schools, private practice and education.
Context of Psychiatric Nursing Practice​
RPNs begin their practice in a variety of practice settings, with diverse populations. They are responsible for practicing within the context of their legislated scope of practice, the regulatory standards, employer policies and their individual competence.
RPN Regulators
In Canada Psychiatric Nursing is regulated in the four western Provinces of British Columbia , Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and in the Yukon .

Please help the fight for the profession of Registered Psychiatric Nursing to be recognized and regulated in Ontario. Show you care about this issue and the people of Ontario and sign the petition.

Thank you for your time and support❤️


Melissa Gough- A Registered Psychiatric Nurse (non-practicing) from British Columbia living in Kingston, Ontario.