On This Page

Nursing During a Pandemic

The following represent some of the common questions nurses ask the College about their roles and responsibilities during a pandemic.

These answers are general in nature. For questions regarding specific practice standards and guidelines, contact Practice Support.

Also, refer to the College’s Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic practice guideline for more information.

Will the government order nurses to work in the event of a pandemic?

The College is unaware of any specific government legislation that would mandate nurses to work during a pandemic. There are, however, several provincial legislative acts that will be relevant during a pandemic. These acts are outlined in Chapter 2 of the government’s Ontario Health Pandemic Influenza Plan (OHPIP). They will apply to nurses on an individual basis, depending on their practice and practice setting.

The College expects nurses to carry out their commitments to clients, the profession and the public during a pandemic by providing nursing care within their personal competencies. This expectation is consistent with the College’s Ethics practice standard, and is reiterated in its Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic practice guideline.

During a pandemic, will the College be revising its practice standards and guidelines to reflect any changes made to the care protocols in OHPIP?

No, the College will not be developing pandemic-specific standards or guidelines. The existing standards are broad enough to encompass practice issues that could arise in a range of situations. The College’s Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic guideline provides a list of current standards and guidelines that nurses will find particularly useful during a pandemic.

In the event of a pandemic, nurses should consult the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for the most up-to-date information and resources regarding pandemic planning.

How will the College support its members during a pandemic?

To support nurses in providing quality care during a pandemic, the College will maintain and update this section of the website to:

  • facilitate access to the most up-to-date government and related health pandemic information;
  • provide links to all College standards and guidelines and identify those that may be particularly relevant during a pandemic;
  • provide pandemic-related scenarios and their resolutions; and
  • announce any pandemic-related teleconferences or web offerings as they become available.

The College will also make every effort to continue practice consultation services by phone and e-mail. Refer to the College’s Preparing for an Influenza Pandemic guideline for more information.

Does the College support nurses using personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with infected clients?

The College’s Infection Prevention and Control practice standard requires nurses to use their knowledge, skill and judgment when taking steps to protect themselves from infection.

The College does not have guidelines that specifically address the use of PPE during a pandemic; however, Infection Prevention and Control emphasizes that employers share responsibility with nurses to create safe working environments, and that nurses should advocate on behalf of their clients and themselves if working conditions put an individual’s well-being at risk.

Might national nursing examinations or clinical placements be deferred during a pandemic?

The College will communicate disruptions and changes to the examination schedule through its website. Educational institutions determine whether students are eligible to graduate. Their decisions are based on whether the students have met the school’s course/program requirements and are prepared to meet the College’s entry-to-practice requirements. If a pandemic prevents students from completing clinical placements, it will be up to the schools to decide whether students graduate. Nursing students are encouraged to discuss such concerns with their instructors.

Will graduates be able to apply for temporary registration during a pandemic?

At present, the College does not see any reason why graduates who meet the registration requirements and have an employment offer would be denied temporary registration during a pandemic. If situations develop that change the College’s position, further information will be posted.

Could the skills of nursing students be used during a pandemic?

Nursing students, because they are not members of the College, are unregulated. However, in the event of a pandemic, the government could attempt to utilize the skills of any health care provider, including students in the health care field. A competency-based approach will allow employers and experienced nurses to decide in advance the types of care that nursing students could provide.

Nursing students could be asked to provide care in situations in which they’ve demonstrated the necessary knowledge, skill and judgment to provide care safely. Nurses who are working with or mentoring students should consult the College’s Supporting Learners practice guideline.


Page last reviewed April 24, 2012