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About registered psychiatric nurses

Registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) are regulated health professionals who work both autonomously and in collaboration with clients and other health care team members to coordinate health care and provide client-centred services to individuals, families, groups and communities. RPNs focus on mental and developmental health, mental illness and addictions, while integrating physical health and utilizing bio-psycho-social and spiritual models for a holistic approach to care.

RPNs practise where people live, work and learn. This includes people's homes and workplaces, educational settings, acute care hospitals, correctional facilities and programs, and long-term care facilities.i

Data availability

CIHI's Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects standardized, comparative data on the supply, demographics, geographic and distribution characteristics, and education and employment details of RPNs in Canada.

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, RPNs are regulated in the 4 western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia) and Yukon.

Practice criteria

To practise as an RPN in Canada, an individual must obtain a licence from an RPN regulatory authority in Canada. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.

Common requirements

  • Hold either a diploma or a bachelor's degree in psychiatric nursing or graduate from a psychiatric nursing education program outside of Canada that has been deemed to be substantially equivalent
  • Pass the Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination administered by Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
  • Register with a provincial/territorial regulatory body

Scope of practice

RPNs are highly trained professionals who promote positive change in both the physical and mental health of their clients. The scope of practice for RPNs is articulated in provincial/territorial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of activities and competencies that RPNs are educated in and legally authorized to provide.

The practice of psychiatric nursing occurs within the domains of direct practice, education, administration and research and includes but is not limited to

  • Assessing, diagnosing, planning and providing treatments and interventions and evaluating their effectiveness, and making referrals
  • Teaching, counselling and advocating with or on behalf of clients in order to enhance health and well-being
  • Coordinating, supervising, monitoring and delivering health and psychiatric nursing services
  • Managing, administering and developing systems and allocating appropriate resources to health and psychiatric nursing services
  • Teaching nursing theory and psychiatric nursing practice
  • Engaging in research related to health and the practice of registered psychiatric nursing

i. Registered Psychiatric Nurse Regulators of Canada. Registered Psychiatric Nurse Entry-Level Competencies. 2014.