Let our RPNs work to their full scope of practice

The demands on our healthcare system are growing. As Canadians are living longer, they are going to need more medical attention over their lifetime. We need to hire more qualified healthcare professionals to care for a larger number of patients. That means healthcare costs will continue to rise.

One way we can address this issue is by utilizing RPNs to their full capacity. RPN’s responsibilities have grown over the past 30 years. Traditionally, RPNs were the bedside nurse who looked after patients. Today they have much more responsibility, to the point where they have autonomous practice; they are assigned to work with predictable patients with predictable outcomes. RNs tend to focus more on non-predictable cases.

Utilizing RPNs to their full scope of practice will not affect the quality of care they provide for patients. As of 2009, RPNs are able to do approximately 92% of what RNs do on the job. Evidence has shown RPNs share just about the same level of skills as RNs do.

More RPNs working to their full scope of practice will give RNs more time to focus on the most complex and unstable patients. It’s a win-win situation for both groups of nurses.

Evidence shows that hiring more RPNs will also reduce the financial strain on our healthcare system. A study conducted at Toronto East General Hospital on an inter-professional team of RPNs, RNs and PSWs discovered that this model is a better way to utilize the unique knowledge and skill that each discipline brings to the team. The model had better levels of care, patient satisfaction, workplace satisfaction.

The study also revealed that this model led to savings. Two of the three units were able to shave 6% of their costs. If you were to apply these savings to every hospital throughout Ontario, it would amount to over $1-billion. That is a significant amount of money in a $17-billion provincial hospital budget.

In a recent interview with the Toronto Metro News, SEIU Healthcare President, Sharleen Stewart confidently states that “More RPNs working to their full scope of practice means RNs will be freed up to care for more complex patients.” There is room for all of these qualified professionals in our healthcare system, and it’s important that the system allows them to work together.


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