There are multiple types of nurses in Canada's healthcare system. Most of them are RNs, or registered nurses, which is the most well-known category in this profession; but there are also RPNs, which are registered practical nurses, and this article is all about them.
In Canada, registered practical nurse (RPN) is a designation used in the province of Ontario to identify nurses that work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) in a healthcare setting. In the rest of Canada and other parts of North America, these workers are known as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) even though the definition of this designation is exactly the same.
RPNs usually have direct contact with patients and are assigned duties and responsibilities that vary depending on their workplace. However, most of these nurses perform general nursing tasks such as administering medication, keeping patient records updated, monitoring vital signs, taking samples for testing, and more. They usually report their findings to an RN or other higher-level healthcare workers, such as doctors.
The biggest difference between RPNs and RNs is their academic credentials, as the former usually graduate from two-year programs (associate degrees) instead of four-year nursing programs (bachelor’s degrees in nursing) like the latter must complete. Because of this, being an RPN is considered a great choice for someone who wants to work as a nurse but doesn’t have the time or resources to commit to an extended academic program in a university or other post-secondary institution.
Regardless of their academic level or designation, RPNs are often subjected to the same expectations as RNs when it comes to patient care, dedication, patience, empathy, respectfulness, and other soft and hard skills. This is because RPNs spend most of their time with patients and they don’t always know or mind about the level of nursing experience that their caregiver has; they simply expect to receive the best care possible.
To become a Registered Practical Nurse, nursing students need to complete a post-secondary nursing program that, as previously stated, usually takes two years. This has been a requirement since 2005 when it was determined that all RPNs in Ontario must earn a diploma by taking a nursing program consisting of four semesters in a college or university.
It should be noted that all RPN programs must be approved by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) and should provide students with nursing theory and clinical knowledge in areas like medical and surgical nursing. In addition to this, RPN programs usually include physical and biological sciences, professional ethics, psychology, and therapeutic relationships.
Read More: How To Transition From PSW To Nursing
To get admission into an RPN program, students need to have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent academic achievement and to comply with specific college or program prerequisites. They may also have access to financial aid through programs like the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), the Tuition Support Program for Nurses, the Nursing Education Initiative, the Canadian Nurses Foundation scholarship program, and others. To apply to an RPN program, students can do it directly to the college or university of their interest or through the Ontario Colleges Application Service (OCAS).
Once RPNs graduate, they will be able to provide care to patients in a variety of settings and with a variety of health professionals. However, considering that an RPN’s education is less comprehensive and more focused, they are usually assigned to work with patients with less complex needs, and patients with stable and predictable conditions.
To practice as an RPN in Ontario, these nurses must register for an exam offered by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), which evaluates their competencies and knowledge of the nursing profession. The current exam for this category of nursing is the "Regulatory Exam – Practical Nurse," which recently replaced the test known as CPNRE. The new exam has been designed to be taken in a computer and there are no limits on the number of times a writer can attempt it.
Once an RPN approves the test and completes their registration successfully (there are other requirements that vary depending on each case,) then they can find employment in settings such as hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, dental offices, and more. They can work in the public or private sector, depending on their career goals and interests.
Read More: RPN vs. RN - What are the differences?
In Ontario, RPNs can be found working in healthcare facilities as part of teams of healthcare professionals and often being the main contact persons for patients whose condition is stable or non-severe and don’t require specialized care. These nurses are known for taking on heavy workloads, especially since the pandemic started, and it is common for them to work full day shifts, as well as evenings and overnight.
In long-Term Care, RPNs are known to play an essential role in the lives of residents. They usually work as an integral member of an interdisciplinary team that includes physicians, social workers, dieticians, speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and others. Furthermore, RPNs who work in these settings have the opportunity to specialize in different medical areas and to develop strong, personal relationships with residents and their families.
Finally, in terms of salaries, multiple sources agree that RPNs make between $40,000 to $60,000 CAD a year or an average of $30 per hour in Ontario, while others with more experience in the field can make up to $80,000.
For RPNs who recently graduated or are close to doing so, finding employment can be challenging, as they might not yet have the experience that many employers are looking for. However, this should not discourage them from starting their job hunt early, considering that there are many resources available for them to find rewarding employment opportunities.
At Caring Support, we are an employment platform that functions as a community where nurses of all types, including RPNs, can connect with employers who can offer them the opportunities they are looking for to jumpstart their careers and take them to the next level. To be a part of this community, RPNs simply have to sign up to create a profile, complete it with their information, and start searching for RPN nursing jobs in their area.
We hope this article was helpful to you. Our goal is to share valuable knowledge and let people know that there are many ways to become a healthcare worker and make a difference in the lives of others. Becoming an RPN is just one of them.
you can sign up to Caring Support to start developing your career with the numerous employment opportunities we have available
If you have any questions about this topic, leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!
We'll keep you updated on all new application updates and features!