Nurses celebrate National Nurse Practitioner Week and call for scope expansion to improve access to the health system

Toronto, Nov. 10. In honour of National Nurse Practitioner (NP) Week (Nov. 7 – 13), the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is proud to highlight the critical role of NPs in improving access to care for all, especially persons marginalized by inequity.

“It is important to dedicate a week to celebrate NPs. They make formidable contributions to the health system by improving timely access to health services, delivering quality care for Ontarians, and optimizing outcomes for patients, organizations and the health system as a whole,” says RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth.

This week especially, RNAO reminds the government of the urgency to remove barriers to NP practice so Ontarians can fully benefit from NPs’ education, experience and expertise. Last month, the association sent a letter to urge Minister of Health Christine Elliott to move on her commitment to expand the scope of practice of NPs – a move that is long overdue.  

“It’s especially important during National NP Week to recognize that the full utilization of NPs would optimize access, safety, quality and equity for Ontarians seeking health care, as well as improve health system effectiveness. Until their role is fully realized by the government and employers, our health system will remain two steps behind where it should be in terms of equity and efficiency,” says RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun.

Reflective of RNAO’s staunch advocacy for increased NP supply, utilization and scope, the association’s NP Task Force released its Vision for Tomorrow report in February 2021. This report features eight recommendations for the government, as well as academic, health service and association stakeholders to act on to optimize the role of the NP in a transformed, integrated health system anchored in primary care. 

In Vision for Tomorrow, recommendation number six calls for investments in research to support NP practice and improved health outcomes. To begin implementation of this recommendation, RNAO is hiring an NP Research Chair to lead and work with various academic institutions and service organizations to carry out research on the following priority areas: Indigenous health, primary care, mental health and substance use, persons experiencing homelessness, older adult, and acute care.

“The NP Research Chair and RNAO’s robust plan for research focused on the priority areas, will be fundamental in emphasizing the effectiveness of NPs across our health system,” says Dr. Grinspun. “The chair’s and partners’ research, transformed into a readily accessible database, will showcase NPs’ vital role and effectiveness in improving timely access to quality care for all, especially for populations marginalized by inequities.”

Throughout COVID-19, NPs have been integral to the province’s pandemic response, especially in long-term care homes where their wide-ranging scope of practice – and emergency directives -- allowed them to respond to residents’ complex needs. RNAO is pleased that Minister of Long-term Care Rod Phillips is moving ahead with a commitment to invest $57.6 million to hire 225 NPs within the next three years. This recognizes recommendation number seven in RNAO’s 2016 Mind the Safety Gap report, as well as recommendation number one of the Vision for Tomorrow report. NPs play a central role in nursing homes improving resident care, safety and quality of life, as well as staff retention. The funding is an essential start to satisfy RNAO’s recommendation to have one NP per 120 residents in every long-term care home in Ontario, as outlined in RNAO’s Nursing Home Basic Care Guarantee, which was adopted by Former Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco, who chaired Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission.

In collaboration with its NP interest group (NPIG), RNAO looks forward to co-hosting the eighth annual NP Knowledge Exchange Symposium virtually on Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET. Entitled Powered by change, the event will engage Ontario NPs in shaping their current and future roles and mobilizing health system transformation. RNAO expects both Minister Elliott and Minister Phillips to bring remarks to the symposium.    

RNAO expresses its deepest gratitude to its NPIG and NPs everywhere in Ontario, Canada and abroad for their outstanding contributions to patients, communities and health systems. Your dedication to improving access, quality care, peoples’ experiences with the health system and health outcomes is transformational. RNAO is marching with you as you deliver better outcomes to all.