uniformed nursesA new certification program at the University of Windsor will qualify nurses to prescribe medication.

Rx Revolution: University of Windsor offers ground-breaking nursing certification program

The Faculty of Nursing, in collaboration with Continuing Education and in association with the Ontario Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner consortium, is launching a certification program that will enable Registered Nurses (RNs) in Ontario to prescribe medication for specific treatment and health care such as contraception, immunization, smoking cessation, and topical wound care.

Until now, only specialized health-care professionals such as physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, and veterinarians had prescribing authority in the province. With the approval of the Ontario University Consortium RN Prescribing Education Program by the College of Nurses of Ontario, it is no longer the case.

Faculty of Nursing professors Sherry Morrell and Gina Pittman highlighted the program’s impact on the health-care system, and how it significantly changes the landscape of access to care and treatment with prescribed medication.

“For communities, the benefit is faster and easier access to specific treatments in Ontario,” says Dr. Morrell. “For instance, you no longer have to wait for a doctor’s appointment to obtain prescriptions for things such as birth control, medications to help you quit smoking, and travel medications to treat and prevent malaria and traveller’s diarrhea.”

Drs. Morrell and Pittman are also Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioners (PHCNPs) – medical professionals who have advanced education and training at the graduate level, allowing them to be autonomous primary care providers for Ontarians, including diagnosing and treating medical conditions, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, prescribing medications, referring to specialists, and generally acting as the individual’s first point of contact with the health care system.

“When the College of Nurses of Ontario requested University of Windsor to map a course program for this type of certification, the fit was perfect for Sherry and Gina since the essential RN-prescribing process was a natural extension of their established clinical expertise in the field, and their proven ability to formulate a program’s core competencies, testing methodology, and outcomes,” says Faculty of Nursing dean Debbie Sheppard-LeMoine.

“They also have extensive experience leading the development of Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner students within the University of Windsor PHCNP program and are active as researchers.”

However, proposing a new and comprehensive certification course proved to be quite challenging.

“It was difficult to create a new and robust course in such a short amount of time while addressing issues related to effectively delivering this education across Ontario asynchronously,” says Pittman.

Pittman emphasizes that collaboration with faculty in the Ontario Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Consortium and members of the Council of Ontario Universities was vital in the organization and development of the learning modules. The UWindsor Continuing Education department also played a crucial role by quickly bringing the course offering to fruition.

“We’re honoured to be contributing as the operational unit for this vital program,” says Jennie Atkins, executive director of Continuing Education. “The Faculty of Nursing is a great partner and their wealth of expertise in the field is invaluable to the learning experience this program provides.”

Atkins adds that there has been a substantial level of interest in the program, which demonstrates the evident demand for certifications among Ontario’s Registered Nurses seeking proficiency and training to augment their skills in providing enhanced patient care. It also reflects the University’s agility in adapting to evolving health care and nursing requirements and requests.

“The Council of Ontario Universities is proud to support the University of Windsor in developing this innovative RN prescribing program,” says Steve Orsini, the council’s president and CEO. “Drawing on the expertise of university Nurse Practitioners from the nine-university consortium was instrumental in developing this safe and effective program that promotes the expansion of RN scope of practice and improves access to care for Ontarians.”

Current sections and waitlists for the certification program are full. Plans to add more sections are underway, with dates to be confirmed. Interested applicants can submit inquiries via Continuing Education's registration page and select “Request Information” on a section. Replies will be provided upon confirmation of additional sections.

For more information, visit the program page on the Continuing Education website or contact continue@uwindsor.ca.

For more information about UWindsor Nursing, visit uwindsor.ca/nursing.

—Gam Macasaet
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