Recently, the government announced plans to allow Personal Support Workers (PSWs) with the right training and authorized by registered nursing staff to administer certain non-controlled drugs in Ontario’s long-term care homes. As the government considers this approach, WeRPN is urging the government to establish an expert committee of Ontario Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) and other healthcare professionals to ensure resident safety and consider the impact on nursing staff.
RPNs recognize there are very specific circumstances where PSWs could administer a small number of specific medications — for example, a daily vitamin — to residents safely, without requiring an RPN or RN to be called away from other residents’ needs. There are, however, important safety risks for residents and liability risks for both PSWs and nurses that need to be closely examined before moving ahead with a plan to allow PSWs to administer select medications. The development of specialized education for PSWs will be essential as well as a defined and limited list of medications that could be administered by an appropriately trained PSW, along with the route and any conditions that would require the administration by a nurse instead. The absence of a regulatory college government PSW practice adds further complexity that needs to be considered. It is essential that the government bring together PSWs, RPNs and other fellow healthcare workers to determine the best path forward that prioritizes resident care and safety.