Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nurse practitioners with palliative care expertise granted ability to independently prescribe high-dose pain medications for those in need of palliative care


Toronto, Feb. 8, 2018 – People receiving palliative care services who require greater pain relief will soon have access to the expertise of nurse practitioners (NP) now that they have been granted authority to independently prescribe high-strength, long-acting opioids.

Up to now, only physicians registered under the Ministry of Health’s Palliative Care Facilitated Access (PCFA) program could independently prescribe high-strength, long-acting opioids such as morphine (200 mg tablets and capsules) and hydromorphone (24 mg and 30 mg capsules) for those receiving palliative care. NPs previously had to consult with a PCFA physician before their patients had access to high-strength drugs. Today, the ministry announced that this barrier will be lifted as of Feb. 9 when eligible NPs will be added to the ministry’s specially designated access program.

“This is important and welcome news for people who need palliative and end-of-life care. Whether you are in an inpatient setting such as a palliative care bed in a hospital, in a residential hospice or living out your remaining days in the comfort of your home, you have the right to this health service,” says Carol Timmings, president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). “People at the end of their lives will have better access to care now that NPs can provide this enhanced relief to help people cope with the symptoms, pain, and physical stress of a terminal diagnosis.”

“We commend the government for recognizing the expertise of NPs,” says Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s chief executive officer. “NPs have the education, experience and necessary qualifications to provide people with the best possible quality of life and end of life care.”

The PCFA program is open to all Ontario NPs with expertise in palliative care. Under an agreement between RNAO and the ministry of health, NPs who wish to register for the PCFA mechanism can do so through RNAO at


The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
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