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The College of Nurses of Ontario (“CNO”) regulates the nursing profession in Ontario. The CNO gains its statutory authority via the Nursing Act and the Regulated Health Professions Act. The mandate of the CNO is to regulate the nursing profession to the benefit of public interest. The CNO achieves this by setting out entry requirements, establishing practice guidelines, administering a Quality Assurance program, and enforcing its code of conduct.

The CNO is governed by a council composed of fourteen (14) registered nurses and seven (7) registered practical nurses, elected by members of the CNO, as well as between fourteen (14) and eighteen (18) public members appointed by the Government of Ontario.

The nursing profession is divided into two distinct categories – registered nurse (“RN”) and registered practical nurse (“RPN”). To become an RPN an individual must have a two (2) or three (3) year college diploma in practical nursing. An RPN’s autonomy in dealing with patients varies depending on the complexity of the ailment – the more complex the issue the higher the expectation to consult an RN. An RN, on the other hand, requires a four (4) year bachelor’s degree in nursing and carries with it the complete autonomy to meet the needs of patients regardless of the complexity of their ailment. The RN qualification also has a sub-category known as nurse practitioner (NP). An NP is an RN with extra education and specialization expanding the duties of an RN to include diagnosis, interpretation of diagnostic tests, and the prescription of pharmaceuticals.

Members of the public may file complaints with the CNO addressing them to the executive director and CEO. Employers and health practitioners are specifically requested to file a formal report rather than mailing a complaint. Once filed a panel is selected by the chair of the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (“ICRC”) from amongst the members of the committee to investigate the complaint/report. After concluding its investigation the panel may refer matters of incompetence or misconduct to the discipline committee, refer matters of incapacity to the ICRC, require members to appear before the ICRC to be formally cautioned, and take any action it deems appropriate that is not inconsistent with the Regulated Health Professions Act. If the matter has not been referred to the Discipline Committee and does not contain allegations of sexual abuse, the registrar, with the consent of both parties, may refer the matter to alternative dispute resolution. However, if the matter makes its way to the Discipline Committee that option is no longer available. The Discipline Committee has powers to affect a revocation of the license, suspension of the license for a specified time, to impose limits or conditions upon the license, to require that the accused appear before a panel and be reprimanded, and to require the accused to pay a fine of not more than $35,000.00.

If you are a nurse facing a disciplinary proceeding or have been terminated from your employment due to alleged professional misconduct we urge you to give us a call to discuss your matter immediately. Although nurses are often guaranteed the protection of their union, we may be able to assist you in a disciplinary proceeding or act as your advisors in a labour arbitration or dispute.