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WeRPN’s Focus on Research Knowledge about RPN Outcomes

by Tiff Blair

Every day throughout Ontario, RPNs provide direct care to thousands of patients across a wide range of healthcare settings.

With an estimated 43,000 RPNs currently practicing, Ontario’s RPNs constitute the second largest group of regulated health professionals in our health care system, and about one-third of our province’s nursing workforce. In some sectors like long term and home care, RPNs make up even larger proportions of the nursing workforce.  That is a lot of nurses and a lot of RPN-patient interactions occurring every day. And yet, despite the important role that RPNs play in our health system, we still don’t fully understand the extent of the impact of RPNs on patient outcomes and experiences. WeRPN is hoping to change that.

Over the past several months, we’ve been busy working behind the scenes to help strengthen the existing body of knowledge about RPNs and promote a more holistic understand of nursing in Ontario and beyond. To do this, we are building on WeRPN’s proven research track record, including our pivotal work on nursing role clarity and professional practice, and leveraging important guiding documents like the three-factor framework. As our population ages and the demands on our health system continue to grow and become more complex, it is even more important to develop new, inclusive nursing research that will ensure health leaders are optimizing the role of the RPN as they develop a robust workforce planning process in Ontario.

To that end, in June 2018, WeRPN took the first step and brought together health professionals, academics, and other stakeholders at a “Research Think Tank” event in Toronto to discuss the development of a robust research agenda to address the optimization of the RPN role.  What we heard that day was that the Ontario model of regulated nursing is unique and requires Ontario-specific research.  Moreover, we need to develop and evaluate models of care premised on matching of nursing competencies to patient needs, across categories of nurses.  We left our Research Think Tank Day energized by a long list of potential core research questions and an exciting goal of building an innovative staged research strategy, designed by nurses, leaders and researchers working across sectors.

Now we’re continuing to build on that momentum by recruiting a Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Fellow who will to help bring that strategy to life. At the same time, we supported a recent workforce survey of RPN that got input from over 2000 RPNs.  Once released, the finding of this survey will paint a much better picture of the diversity of experiences of these passionate health professionals. And on top of that, we’re also launching an online platform to engage RPNs in nursing innovation practice in new and inspiring ways.

There is a long and exciting road ahead and we’re just getting started. We are eager to continue to engage with RPNs and other health professionals across Ontario, Canada and internationally as we collaborate to build a better understanding the vital role RPNs play in the delivery of excellent care across the health system.

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