CNA proposes membership expansion to represent all nurses

January / February 2018   Comments

What members need to know about the proposed change, its context and the decision that lies ahead

The nursing and health-care landscape is evolving. Likewise, your national professional association is changing so it will remain strong and relevant to nurses and the health-care system, for today and tomorrow.

CNA has proudly served as the national professional voice of RNs since 1908. But today, it is just one among many associations and organizations at the provincial, territorial and national levels representing RNs and other regulated nurses. As a result, over several years the nursing profession has become fragmented into silos, a situation that does not always serve Canadians well.

Canadians, governments and health-system leaders have a strong, legitimate expectation of collaboration within and across health care, and interprofessional care models are becoming the norm. CNA sees these developments as a strategic opportunity for nurses to bring their voices together within a united national professional association.

What changes is CNA exploring?

To strengthen Canadian nursing, CNA is pursuing a plan to expand its membership beyond RNs and NPs by inviting licensed/registered practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to be members of the association.

The agenda is being propelled by the decision in British Columbia to unite the four regulated categories under one professional association: the new Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC (NNPBC). The establishment of NNPBC in May 2018 will mean that CNA’s current jurisdictional member, the Association of Registered Nurses of BC, will no longer exist. The new association’s members will include RNs, NPs, licensed practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses. But under CNA’s long-standing governance structure, only RNs and NPs may be CNA members.

The B.C. situation aside, the fragmentation of the nursing profession into silos is holding back our effectiveness as a professional workforce. A lack of unity and collaboration within nursing has had negative implications at the practice, organizational and systems levels. To be successful in our interprofessional collaboration, intra-professional collaboration is required.

The proposal to expand CNA membership was considered, discussed and debated at the November 2017 board meeting. At the conclusion of these discussions, the board unanimously approved a motion to bring forward a proposed bylaw amendment to enact this landmark change to voting delegates at the June 18 annual meeting of members.

Which groups are being proposed as members?

CNA is proposing to include two additional regulated nursing designations in its membership: licensed/registered practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.

Licensed/registered practical nurses are employed in all Canadian jurisdictions. Everywhere except Ontario, these professionals are referred to as LPNs; in Ontario, they are known as RPNs.

Registered psychiatric nurses are educated and regulated solely in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon.

Why now?

The timing is right for two main reasons:

  1. The nursing profession includes four regulated nursing designations. Every day across this country, nurses from each of these groups can be found in the same workplaces and/or on teams together. To reflect this reality, Canada’s national professional nursing association should be in a position to represent the voices of all nursing groups and strongly promote and contribute to intra-professional collaboration.
  2. Policy and legislative changes affecting associations, colleges and health care (now and in the near future) have an unavoidable impact on CNA’s membership categories. More specifically:
    • In November 2017, the B.C. government passed legislation that allows a single body to regulate all nursing designations. That new body is in the process of amalgamation. At the same time, the new professional association in the province (NNPBC) plans to be operational this spring. Its membership categories also include all nursing designations. For NNPBC to retain B.C.’s jurisdictional membership in CNA, these groups must be welcomed into the CNA fold.
    • In Nova Scotia, a new government policy on self-regulated professions means that regulatory bodies are required to work exclusively in the public interest rather than as advocates for the profession (a key aspect of CNA’s work). Because of the changing regulatory landscape, CNA’s jurisdictional member in N.S., the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia (which fulfilled the regulatory role), must withdraw its membership in CNA within a few years. In addition, the RN and LPN regulators in N.S. are moving to create one new nursing regulator — presenting the same kinds of challenges for CNA as the amalgamations in B.C. — and it is clear that other jurisdictions may follow suit.

These rapid changes are what have compelled CNA’s board to consider membership models that include all four professional nursing designations.

When and how will this membership change be voted on?

Voting delegates, who are selected in advance of the CNA annual meeting of members, will decide on the proposed bylaw amendment. A two-thirds majority is required for this bylaw to pass.

CNA members are invited to participate in the June 18 annual meeting:

  • In person — Shaw Centre, Ottawa, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Via live webcast —, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET

Note: only designated voting delegates in attendance may vote.

Will more information be provided before the vote?

Yes, over the next few months CNA will use its communications channels to help explain the urgency and importance of the upcoming decision. Voting delegates will receive detailed information prior to attending the annual meeting.

This is an exciting and important time — both for CNA and professional nursing in Canada. Right now, leaders at CNA are seeking nurses’ opinions on the proposal to expand membership beyond RNs and NPs. Share your views by taking a short survey on this topic at

Comments and questions are welcome any time at

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