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Ontario’s first nurse to have prescribing powers is a Northerner | CBC News

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For years,  Cyril Lee Turley and others have been calling on the government to give power to registered nurses to prescribe medication as a way to alleviate the strain on hospitals and community clinics. 

“I started following what the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario was doing with their advocacy back in 2015, and in 2017 heard about this RN prescribing type concept,” Turley, a registered nurse with Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team in Little Current, told the CBC.

So at the end of 2023, when the Ontario government arrived at the decision to allow RNs to prescribe certain medication, Turley was thrilled. 

 “[I] waited anxiously for that education to come out in January and jumped on board when it was offered through Georgian College.”

Now Turley is the first RN in Ontario to receive the authority to prescribe medications.

It is going to allow for positive quality patient outcomes, which is why we nurses do what we do.– Cyril Lee Turley, First RN who can prescribe medication

As healthcare systems across northern Ontario feel the stretch, Turley said the ability for RNs to prescribe certain immunisations and medication has helped change way clinics can work. 

“It’s really allowing us to be autonomous in that process and reducing some of that wait that the patient had to go through before.”

Turley believes that the ability of RNs to prescribe will enhance the patient experience.  

“It is going to allow for positive quality patient outcomes, which is why we nurses do what we do.”

Turley has been nursing on Manitoulin for nearly 17 years after he started as a registered practical nurse in 2007. 

He became registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) in 2017, and has now completed the CNO-approved training programs that qualified him to prescribe medications.

“It was actually a really good course. It was holistic in all the different areas that we’ll be able to prescribe,” Turley said

The course includes about 14 online theory-based modules, which Turley said sums up to about  55 to 65 hours in length. 

That is then followed by a practical component overseen by the lead physician at the clinic. Candidates are required to write 20 prescriptions, along with patient care plans and some learning objectives and goals for the College of Nurses.

“RN prescribing represents a forward leap in nursing practice, empowering RNs with the knowledge, skill and judgment to assess, diagnose and treat defined non-complex conditions,” said Silvie Crawford, College of Nurses Ontario’s Executive Director and CEO, in a written statement to CBC News. 

The prescriptions RNs are qualified to write include birth control (excluding IUDs and implants), smoking cessation aids, and travel medications to treat or prevent things like malaria and traveller’s diarrhea. 

Nurses will also be able to prescribe for topical wound care as well as immunizations such as flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines. 

Turley encourages more nurses to pursue the qualifications if they can, and says he is now looking forward to working through this expanded scope and learning as much as he can to build his knowledge. 

“And hopefully one day I’ll end up taking my nurse practitioner.” 

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