Confusion about RPN role a blind spot in Ontario's health care system: Report

New report provides recommendations for nurses, nursing employers and educators

MISSISSAUGA, ON, June 3, 2014 /CNW/ - Despite the fact that Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) make up more than a quarter of Ontario's nursing workforce, a newly released report reveals that there is a significant lack of understanding among nurses, nursing leaders and educators in terms of the role of the RPN or how they can be best utilized.

"We knew there were role clarity issues affecting RPNs but even we were shocked by the degree to which this entire category of nurses continues to be misunderstood," said Dianne Martin, Executive Director of the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario, which led the report. "Not only does this confusion translate into stress for the RPNs who are being improperly utilized, but it can contribute to inefficient health care teams and sub-optimal patient outcomes."

The report, titled, "It's all about synergies: Understanding the role of the RPN in Ontario's health care system", highlights the rampant confusion about the role of the RPN. For its research, RPNAO surveyed nurses of all categories and sectors from across Ontario. The resulting report serves as a roadmap that nurses, nurse employers and nurse educators can use to improve their understanding of the scope and appropriate engagement of the RPN role in Ontario's health care system.

"When the RPN role is better understood, health care leaders are able to better utilize these nurses as part of their health care teams," said Martin. "Our report features detailed strategies and resources that leaders and educators can use to solve these problems in their own organizations, which will lead to better health care teams and improved patient outcomes."

Initial response to the report has been extremely positive. "These findings have struck a real chord in the nursing community. Organizations have been starving for this information," says Martin. "It is important to note that the report is not saying that RPNs are interchangeable with RNs. On the contrary, it builds on the understanding that RNs and RPNs have distinct, yet complementary skill sets and scopes of practice and that each group needs to be properly utilized in order to create the best patient outcomes."

The report is available for download at

About the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

Founded in 1958, RPNAO is the voice of registered practical nursing in Ontario. There are approximately 35,000 RPNs working in Ontario, playing a vital role in the province's health care system. For more information about RPNAO, its mandate and how RPNs contribute to Ontario's health care system, please visit

SOURCE: Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

For further information:

Dianne Martin, Executive Director, 905-602-4664

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Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario

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