The Profession

Psychiatric Nursing is recognized as a distinct regulated health profession in Canada and in other countries. The profession of Psychiatric Nursing has a national Code of Ethics and Standards of Psychiatric Nursing Practice. These and other practice guidelines or policies provide guidance for RPNs whether they are in the clinical area; in administration, in education or conducting research.

Registered Psychiatric Nurses are responsible for their practice  within the context of their legislated scope of practice and individual competence. All RPNs in Canada must have met initial criteria for entry into the profession and must also adhere to the requirements for the ongoing maintenance of competence.

Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) practise where people live, work, and learn. This includes people's homes, their workplace, educational settings, acute care hospitals, correctional facilities and programs,  and long term care facilities.  

The role of the RPN may change somewhat from one setting or program to another. However, there are basic expectations such as assessment of client needs; planning with the client how those needs will be addressed; implementing the plan; and evaluating how the plan worked with the client. Collaboration is key to successful practice in the mental health field. This includes partnerships with clients, families, other professionals and service providers, and community resources.

Where do RPNs work?

  • Acute admission units                    
  • Forensic assessment units    
  • Child and adolescent programs in residential        
  • Palliative care and community programs                
  • Mobile Crisis Teams
  • Residential or community programs for            
  • Crisis Stabilization Units
  • People with developmental disabilities            
  • Emergency departments
  • Programs for persons with dementias or         
  • Community mental health programs for elderly persons who are frail                
  • Law enforcement liaison
  • Programs of assertive community treatment        
  • Schools and universities
  • Substance abuse & addiction programs        
  • Suicide prevention programs
  • Long term care facilities                
  • Social, child & youth services
  • Correctional services, including community        
  • Veterans' affairs programs
  • Independent practice                    
  • Post-trauma programs

Unique Abilities

RPNs work in challenging clinical and treatment environments and in interdisciplinary team settings. They need to continually exercise sound judgment in making decisions and solving problems to meet clinical challenges and the health care needs of patients.

With their specific education and experience, RPNs are skilled in patient assessments; planning programs for their clients; and implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of the plans with the clients.

Many RPNs provide crisis and treatment intervention on a daily basis. They must possess excellent interpersonal and communication skills to be effective as therapists capable of compassion and empathy, and in exercising tact and diplomacy while counselling and providing treatment to patients.

Their education provides the knowledge and skills required for those responsibilities.

Working In Partnership

RPNs represent the single largest group of health care professionals in the mental health field. RPNs are on the front lines, working as key members in an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals

They provide care and services in hospitals, facilities and communities, and are at the heart of care delivery to patients

RPNs work in full partnership with psychiatrists, psychologists, registered nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists, managers, community agencies, law enforcement professionals and social service providers.

Making a Difference Across Mental Health

RPNs are employed in a broad range of settings that provide challenging and exciting opportunities for those interested in health care or a career in the mental health field. They work as staff nurses, managers, counsellors, clinical specialists, team leaders, supervisors, chief executive officers, executive directors, faculty, researchers, case managers and consultants in hundreds of communities across Canada.

Registered Psychiatric Nurses Providing Leadership

Many of Canada’s most experienced RPNs are actively involved in leadership roles in the country’s health system.

These RPNs play key roles in strengthening the delivery of mental health services by serving as team leaders, supervisors, senior administrators and decision makers – bringing valuable psychiatric nursing perspectives to their leadership roles and clinical settings, and helping to sustain and improve mental health care.

As well, many RPNs play an invaluable role in the education of students. Experienced RPNs serve as mentors, preceptors and role models. The insight and skills they share ensure the psychiatric nurses of tomorrow are better prepared for this dynamic profession.

A Rich Tradition of Providing Care

Decades of service by Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) have resulted in a respected and honoured legacy – a record of providing high standards of skilled and compassionate care.

For over 80 years, Registered Psychiatric Nurses have been an indispensable part of Canada’s health care system. RPNs have been educated in and focused on mental health care since the 1920s. There are over 5,000 Registered Psychiatric Nurses in Canada.

Psychiatric nursing is recognized as a distinct health care profession throughout western Canada and many other countries – a profession that is growing and adapting to meet the changing needs of patients and our health care system.