The House of Assembly passed the new Registered Nurses Act (2008) on June 4, 2008. The RN Act lays out progressive governance structures and disciplinary procedures for the nursing profession. These measures increase public protection and place greater accountability on the part of the nurse and nurse practitioner professions through the ARNNL.
The RN Act (2008) improves disciplinary procedures, streamlines regulation process and details ethical requirements on the part of the professionals that not only strengthen the authority of the professional board, but also ensure safeguards are in place to protect the general public. This further enhances the accountability of the profession to the public. The Act covers all registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) currently registered in the province. It sets out an open and transparent disciplinary process which is regulated by the ARNNL, granting the association the appropriate investigative powers and authority to investigate allegations of wrong doing by a nursing professional.
The RN Act also details the ethical duty of RNs or NPs who observe the misconduct of another colleague to report it to the Director of Professional Conduct Review. The Act includes a progressive measure by ensuring the individual who reports the misconduct is protected from any action. The new governance arrangements and disciplinary procedures contained in the Act follow similar measures adopted by the Provincial Government and incorporated in other health profession legislation including those for physicians, pharmacists, massage therapists, veterinarians, optometrists and physiotherapists. The Act also made changes to the professional conduct review process which required the appointment of:
- a Director of Professional Conduct Review;
- a Complaints Authorization Committee from Council; and
- a Disciplinary Panel to replace the Professional Conduct Review Committee.
The Registered Nurses Regulations (2013), under the RN Act, were approved by the Minister of Health and Community Services on June 12, 2013, and came into effect on June 14, 2013. Regulations are delegated legislation that speaks to specialized powers.
ARNNL Bylaws are rules of procedure that are not already specified in legislation. While final authority to make, amend, or repeal regulations rests with the Minister of Health and Community Services, final authority to make, amend, or repeal bylaws rests with Council, not the membership as it was in the past.
The RN Act changed the composition of Council and required ARNNL to conduct an election of all RN councillors in June 2009. Thus Council amended bylaws regarding the makeup of Council as required by the Act (e.g., 10 [not 13] RNs plus four [not two] public representatives) and to govern the nominations (e.g., the nominations committee will now be appointed by Council and not elected by the membership) and the election and voting process. These bylaws govern the election of the incoming and future Councils. Council also provided direction for proposed by-law amendments regarding the powers and functions of Council, the annual general meeting, and Council and special meetings, which were approved in April 2009.
The RN Act gives the NP Standards Committee, 37(1), the authority to establish standards for NPs to include:
- prescribing the forms of energy that a NP may order and prescribing the purpose for which and the circumstances in which the form of energy may be applied;
- prescribing the laboratory and other tests that a NP may prescribe; and
- designating the drugs that a NP may prescribe and the circumstances under which the drugs may be prescribed.The Committee is authorized (as provided for by regulations which the Council may make, subject to the approval of the Minister) to approve practice protocols.