Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Types of Nursing

In Ontario there are three types of nursing positions, which reflect different levels of education and responsibility. To find out how to pursue a career in one of these directions, check out the Becoming a Nurse section on our Careers in Nursing Website.

Registered Nurses (RNs) Since 2005, all Ontario RNs must have a baccalaureate degree. RNs either take a collaborative college-university nursing program or a four-year university nursing program — both leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BScN) or Bachelor of Nursing degree (BN). Because an RN’s education is more comprehensive, they have a deeper knowledge base to draw on in areas such as clinical practice, critical thinking and research utilization. RNs can care for patients with more complex needs in unpredictable situations.

Nurse Practitioners An NP is a RN with advanced university education who provides personalized, quality health care to patients. Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Education in Ontario is delivered by a consortium of nine universities under COUPN (Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing). For more information check out the Ontario Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program. NPs work in four specialties: primary health care, adult and pediatric care and anaesthesia. To learn more, check out the Nurse Practitioner Association of Ontario.

Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) Since 2005, all RPNs in Ontario must earn a diploma in Practical Nursing by taking a program consisting of four semesters over two years in a college program leading to a diploma in Practical Nursing. Because an RPN’s education is less comprehensive and more focused, RPNs’ careers are most appropriately suited to patients with less complex needs, and patients with stable and predictable conditions. Learn more about the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario.

New Nursing Roles in Ontario

The Ontario government recognizes the need for new, innovative health care roles in areas of need. In that vein, here are two exciting emerging nursing roles.

Registered Nurse-Performed Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (RNFS) The RNFS pilot project in Ontario involves educating Registered Nurses (RNs) to perform flexible sigmoidoscopies — a diagnostic procedure used to screen for abnormalities in the lower third of the colon — increasing patient access to colorectal cancer screening. RNs who are implementing this role have attained specialized education and participated in training procedures prior to becoming independent practitioners.

Registered Nurse - Surgical First Assist (RN-SFA) RN-SFAs function collaboratively with the surgical team to achieve optimal patient outcomes. Creation of these positions supports reducing wait times for surgical services. To become a RN-SFA, a RN with previous operating room experience attains additional education in surgical first assistance.

Learn more about the different career paths you can choose at:

Learn more about Nurse Practitioners at: