April 2019

Can I do that? Understanding your scope of practice

The nursing scope of practice describes the procedures, actions and processes nurses are qualified to perform according to current legislation, the practice environment and individual competence.

A question we frequently receive from nurses is whether an activity falls within their nursing scope of practice. If you are unsure if a specific activity is within your scope of practice, you must consider and answer yes to the following three questions before you proceed:

1.      Is the activity within your legislative scope?

Nurses are accountable to practice under relevant legislation, such as the Nursing Act, 1991 and the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991. Depending on your practice setting, you also may be accountable to other legislation, such as the Public Hospitals Act or the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007.

2.     Is the activity supported by your employer and practice setting?

Employers are responsible for determining the roles and responsibilities of their employees, including determining whether nurses can perform certain activities and procedures in the practice setting. You are encouraged to consult with your employer and the health care team to determine if your practice setting supports the performance of the activity.

3.     Do you have the knowledge, skill and judgment to perform the activity?

Prior to performing any activity, you are accountable for reflecting on your individual scope and considering whether you have the adequate knowledge, skill and judgment to perform the activity or procedure safely and competently.   

If you respond no to one of these questions, the activity may not be appropriate. You should review the relevant practice standard, or contact CNO’s Practice Support team. You can also consult with your employer and the health care team.

To help you further reflect on each of the three questions, read Understanding Your Scope of Practice in Ask Practice for more guidance.

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