Ontario’s ban on health care training is hurting residents

BRANTFORD, ON (November 25, 2015) – For the first time in Canada’s history, seniors outnumber youth. But, as Canada is struggling to find ways to lighten the load for its health care professionals and meet the needs of an aging population, Ontario continues to enforce an arbitrary ban preventing many students from pursuing a career in health care.  

Currently, Ontario is the only province in Canada to ban career colleges from training registered practical nurses (RPN)—a ban that does not apply to community colleges. The province’s refusal to allow career colleges to train RPNs is a painful decision for residents, and it’s quickly getting worse.    

The Conference Board of Canada predicts the country will face a shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2022.

Registered nurses are already overwhelmed with patients. According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Ontario has the second-lowest registered nurse-to-population ratio, with just seven nurses per 1000 residents. Career colleges cannot improve this ratio, but they can support Ontario’s overworked nurses by training RPNs.

It is a strong support system and allowing nurses the freedom to delegate that will have a lasting impact on Canada’s aging population. Registered nurses are not the same as RPNs, but they work as a team. Nurses rely on RPNs to lift much of the burden that is placed on them. By delegating work to RPNs, registered nurses are able to work more efficiently and focus on cases that demand their expertise. 

Registered nurses require a 3 year university degree, and use their wide breadth of knowledge and skills to assist patients with complex health care needs. In contrast, RPNs obtain a 2 year college diploma from a provincially approved program, and use their practical knowledge to provide nursing care at the bedside. In addition to their training, RPNs must pass an exam administered by the Canadian Nursing Association.

Yet, despite enforcing program regulations and exams that ensure a quality standard, students are needlessly punished for choosing alternative pathways to a career in health care. While Ontario refuses to allow career colleges to train RPNs, it does allow RPNs trained in other jurisdictions to work in Ontario. As a result, many students make the difficult decision to study outside of the province. Although they are allowed to work in Ontario, many graduates choose to pursue more favourable job markets across Canada or the United States.

“Ontario’s ban on career colleges training RPNs makes no sense, and is clearly discriminatory,” said Career Colleges Ontario’s CEO, Sharon Maloney.  

“In forcing students to obtain this training out of province at other career colleges, and then allowing those students to practice in Ontario, the province is hurting its own citizens and its economy.”

Ontario career colleges are no stranger to training health care professionals. Of the various programs offered at career colleges, health care related programs—such as personal support worker training—are the most popular. It’s time to stop punishing students for choosing alternative pathways to their career.



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