Gov’t answers RNAO’s call to expand RN scope of practice to prescribe medications

Nov. 6, 2023

People in Ontario will have faster access to care and will be better served now that the role of registered nurses (RN) will be expanded to prescribe medications independently. The news, announced Monday by Health Minister Sylvia Jones, has been an ask of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) since 2012.

“We are delighted with the government’s announcement. Granting this authority has been a top priority for RNAO and for nurses. Patients in various settings will benefit from this change,” says Dr. Claudette Holloway, president of RNAO. “The government has already granted pharmacists expanded scope and we have been waiting for RNs to be able to better meet the needs of the patients and clients we care for.”     

RNAO CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun says the news “is especially welcome as it helps build up the nursing profession, making it more attractive and more reflective of the knowledge and experience RNs have. We know RNs can unlock delays in the health system and the authority to prescribe is one more barrier that is being removed,” says Grinspun, noting “the association listed this as a recommendation to improve people’s access in care in numerous reports it has released over the years, including Primary Solutions for Primary Care in 2012. We have been waiting for this day since it was promised under the previous government.”

The announcement allows qualified RNs to administer any vaccines for the prevention of bacterial and viral disease, hormonal and intravaginal contraceptives, specific medications for malaria prevention, the prevention and/or treatment of traveller’s diarrhea, medication for smoking cessation, anesthetics used topically for pain relief and wound care, epinephrine for anaphylaxis, and over the counter medication. A full list of drugs RNs can prescribe can be found on the College of Nurses of Ontario's website.

RNs will undergo a course of study at selected colleges and universities beginning in January 2024. Grinspun says the next step is for the government to make it a priority to integrate the educational requirement to prescribe into the basic four-year baccalaureate program so all RNs can prescribe beginning with those set to graduate in June 2024. Given that over 5,000 RNs graduate with their BScN each year, this will further strengthen people’s access to care.

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 system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit or follow us on X (formerly Twitter)Facebook and Instagram.

Contact info

Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)