On This Page

Ontario Registered Nurses granted the authority to prescribe

New regulations expand Registered Nurses’ scope of practice in the interest of public safety

On Nov. 6, 2023, the Ontario government has set the stage for Registered Nurses (RNs) in Ontario to become authorized to communicate diagnoses and prescribe specific medications for their patients.

“Granting RNs the authority to prescribe medications and communicate diagnoses is a meaningful expansion of nurses’ scope of practice and an important development for the delivery of health care in Ontario,” says Silvie Crawford, CNO’s Executive Director and CEO.

Under the new regulations, RNs who meet specific requirements will be authorized to prescribe certain medications and communicate diagnoses for the purposes of prescribing those medications. A key prerequisite for RNs seeking this privilege is the completion of specialized education that is approved by CNO. These programs are designed to ensure the highest standards of competence and practice.

Collaborative efforts for safer practice

“CNO is working with academic institutions interested in offering RN-prescribing education. Our program review process is carefully structured to ensure safe practice and aligns with the competencies required for RN prescribing” says Katie Dilworth, Manager of CNO’s Education Program. “CNO Council will review and consider approval of RN prescribing programs in December 2023.” A list of the programs will be available at cno.org.

Registered Nurse prescribing is optional for RNs who want to add prescribing to their practice. The RNs who successfully complete the council approved, specialized RN-prescribing education will have information added to their profile on CNO’s public Register, Find a Nurse that verifies their authority to prescribe. 

Some practice environments may not allow RN prescribing. This could be due to legislation, for example the Public Hospitals Act prevents RNs from ordering treatments for hospital patients, or employer preferences and requirements. It’s critical for RNs considering this new scope to consult their employers to confirm if it will be supported in the practice setting. It’s equally critical that employers who plan to enable RN prescribing consult nurses and put the necessary supports in place to roll it out safely.

Ensuring diligence: Safeguarding patients and practices

CNO’s role is to safeguard patients through regulatory oversight and establishing measures to ensure public protection. We are diligently reviewing programs, developing practice standards and providing additional resources to support RNs in this expanded role. Practice standards will be brought to CNO Council for approval in December, as well.

“Adherence to practice standards and relevant legislation is essential for RNs. Employers who decide to support this scope of RN practice must ensure that prescribing is taking place in a safe and supportive work environment,” says Crawford. 

CNO continues to work diligently with partners to ensure RNs are equipped with the knowledge, skill and judgment to prescribe and communicate diagnoses. “Our goal is to maintain the highest standards of patient safety while expanding the RN scope of practice,” adds Crawford.

For more on RN prescribing, visit cno.org.

Page last reviewed November 06, 2023