August 2016

What to expect from a new NP practice standard

The College is revising the Nurse Practitioner practice standard to align its content with changes to national competencies for NPs and make it easier to apply in any practice setting. The practice standard will be shorter than the previous document but it will still include details, such as practice expectations and legal requirements that help NPs provide safe, effective and ethical care to their clients.

In early September, NPs and other stakeholders will receive an email requesting their feedback on a draft of the revised practice standard. The request for feedback will also be posted on for anyone to comment.

What about prescribing controlled substances?
When you receive the draft practice standard, you may wonder why it does not include anything new about scope of practice, such as prescribing controlled substances. This is because NPs do not yet have this authority. In 2011, when the NP drug list was eliminated, the Ontario government added a restriction to the regulation to prohibit NPs from prescribing controlled substances.

The misuse and abuse of controlled substances have become a major public health challenge for governments. Given the complexities, regulation change enabling NPs to prescribe controlled substances will be made following policy direction from, and in close collaboration with, the Ontario government.

Changes to scope of practice for any health profession are a provincial government decision. Once we have policy direction from the government, the College will propose a regulation for safe practice for government to approve.

What we’ve done so far
Recognizing the high-level of risk associated with controlled substances, we began work in 2012 to prepare for a future change to the regulation. We conducted extensive research and surveyed NPs to explore their practice realities, learning needs and what they need to safely, effectively and ethically prescribe controlled substances. We also participated in a national work group to identify strategies that would support consistency in regulatory approaches across the country. In March 2014, Council supported a policy that when NPs become legally authorized to prescribe controlled substances, they will be required to complete specific education before they can prescribe these medications.

We don’t have a timeline for when this prescribing authority will be in place. We will do more consultation with NPs and other stakeholders before any changes are made.

The new NP practice standard will be designed to ensure future regulation changes allowing NPs to prescribe controlled substances can be easily incorporated into the document.

Watch The Standard for updates and opportunities to comment on the draft practice standard.

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