Types of Nursing in Canada - Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Psychiatric Nurse
There are three types of nursing if you are considering nursing as a career in Canada:
- Licensed Practical Nurse, LPN
- Registered Nurse, RN
- Registered Psychiatric Nurse, RPN
In Canada all nursing professions are regulated in the public interest and you must pass a licensing exam to become registered in order to practice nursing as a career.
Nursing education for each of these types of nursing has common curricular components and some specialty components. However, the length of nursing education varies and each category has a defined scope of practice.
Licensed Practical Nurse
The Licensed Practical Nurse has 1-2 years of education in a community college or private post-secondary training institute. They have a limited nursing scope of practice that is completely contained within the scope of practice of a registered nurse and cannot work with clients who are complex or require multiple interventions.
In Ontario and some other provinces they are called a Registered Practical Nurse and this is abbreviated as RPN. This can be confusing because a registered psychiatric nurse is also abbreviated as RPN in the western provinces. In many provinces LPN's were not fully utilized for many years and the numbers of nurses practicing as a licensed practical nurse declined dramatically. Because of the pressures exerted by fiscal restraint and by the nursing shortage which is quite acute, the licensed practical nurse is now in demand again in provinces where they can legally practice.
Registered Psychiatric Nursing
Schools that prepare nurses to enter psychiatric nursing are limited to the four western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. There are over 5,000 Registered Psychiatric Nurses registered with the 4 regulatory authorities in these provinces.
Registered Psychiatric Nursing is not recognized as a separate type of nursing in the eastern provinces so that might be why they call practical nurses RPN's (Registered Practical Nurses). This term cannot be used in the western provinces because it already used for psychiatric nurses.
The association of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada recommends that the minimum requirement for initial registrants for entry to practice into the profession of psychiatric nursing should be a baccalaureate degree by the year 2012.
On the Registered Psychiatric Nurses Association of Canada website there are 7 education programs listed for psychiatric nursing in all of Canada. There is no legally recognized classification of Psychiatric Technician in Canada. You may see this as a one of the different types of nursing in other countries such as the United States but it is not a recognized type of nursing in Canada.
Of the three types of nursing, registered nursing (the RN) is the most common type. It is typically the registered nurse that people think of when they think of the nursing profession. Registered nursing has the broadest nursing scope of practice.
There are no hospital based schools of nursing in Canada. A university education is required. Some colleges have partnered with universities and students can enter a nursing program where the first two years are offered in the college setting and then complete the nursing degree at the university.
Most provinces have registered nurse education programs that are 4 years in length ( 8-9 semesters) but some provinces are now implementing a three year program (9 semesters) as an accelerated program in order to bring more nurses into the Canadian health care system more quickly.
One province in Canada (British Columbia) is responding to increased pressures on the Canadian health care system by broadening the scope of practice of the registered nurse to include some tasks that were previously out of scope.
When these new regulations are put in place, under certain circumstances the registered nurse will be able to provide a broader range of services than that provided by the current regulations including:
- ordering ultrasound or X-ray diagnostics (in triage situations)
- conducting tuberculosis screening
- managing labor in hospital when the primary care provider is absent
These changes recognize the current education and skills of the registered nurse. However, the changes are specific to British Columbia as the nursing profession in Canada is regulated provincially. It is quite possible and quite likely however, that other provinces will follow suit.