Serving the Public: Reflections from the ED & CEO
As Anne Coghlan, CNO’s Executive Director & CEO, prepares to retire from her role at the end of March, she looks back at her time leading Canada’s largest health profession regulator.
During the past 21 years, I have had the immense privilege of leading the College of Nurses of Ontario. As I approach the end of my time as Executive Director and CEO, I am in awe of the changes and improvements I have seen in how we protect the public. As an organization focused on patient safety, we understand we are in a unique position of public trust. That’s why I am also very excited about the visionary work underway to continue CNO’s long history as a leader in professional regulation.
Public confidence is earned, not freely given. It is earned by listening to needs and expectations, through engagement in the development of standards and processes and by following through with action to address concerns when needs and expectations are not met. Our Code of Conduct is a great example of a modernizing initiative that CNO undertook to ensure our standards truly speak to the needs of patients and families.
One of the changes I vividly remember is moving our public Register online. The requirement to keep a register of all nurses in Ontario has existed for decades. Historically, members of the public or employers had to call us or come in person to CNO’s building to look up a name on the register! The introduction of “Find A Nurse” 2009 made this information truly accessible to all. It also marked the beginning of CNO’s commitment to increased transparency and innovative work to ensure we are a modern and responsive regulator. That commitment continues to this day as we implement changes to maintain and build public confidence in CNO.
Our regulatory effectiveness depends on every nurse’s commitment to providing safe care. Across the province, in all practice settings, you contribute to public confidence as you embed standards in your practice. You also earn public confidence when you reflect on your care, openly receive feedback and pursue continuous learning. It has been my privilege to have a bird’s-eye view of the journey some nurses have taken to move from responding to concerns about their practice to becoming role models for the integration of feedback to improve patient safety. In my role, I often had to remind a nurse to remember to reflect on “what went well today,” which is just as important a learning opportunity as feedback about opportunities for improvement!
I started my nursing career 40 years ago with a real passion for patient advocacy — I wanted to make a difference for patients and all who rely on our health care system. Over the years, I have learned that truly serving the public requires both individual commitment and collaboration. It has been such an honour to work with committed colleagues provincially, nationally and internationally to advance the work of regulation in a way that truly serves the public.
CNO has been very fortunate to have Council members who consistently focus on our public safety mandate. Our governing body embraced and championed the need for regulatory governance reform. CNO’s governance vision has been cited, adopted and lauded by regulators across the country and around the world. Working to implement our governance vision reminds me that success is not linear — the winding path is just as rewarding when the destination reached aligns with one’s vision. I am confident that CNO’s evidence-informed vision will influence regulatory change in Ontario to ensure the people of this province reap the benefits of state-of-the-art regulatory governance.
There are exciting days ahead for CNO and for the public we serve. Together with our many committed stakeholders, CNO staff members are transforming the work of regulation. CNO’s success depends on this talented group who are committed to making a difference for the people we serve. The CNO Team is second-to-none!
Thank you to every nurse, collaborative stakeholder, Council member and staff member for your support of CNO’s work to protect the public by promoting safe nursing practice. Thank you to patients and their families who continue to teach us about the experience of receiving nursing care. I have learned from all of you!