Standards and best practices

Because nurses are self-regulating, the public needs to be confident that the largest health profession in Canada is dedicated to upholding professional practice. In that vein, Canadian nurses have become leaders in standard and best practice development.

Seven values guide the nursing profession, and they are articulated in the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses by the Canadian Nurses Association.

They include:

  • Providing safe, compassionate, competent and ethical care
  • Promoting health and well-being
  • Promoting and respecting informed decision-making
  • Preserving dignity
  • Maintaining privacy and confidentiality
  • Promoting justice
  • Being accountable

Nurses face a variety of ethical situations in their day-to-day practice, and these seven values act as guideposts. They also underscore nursing practice standards and guidelines created by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), which go one step further to ensure safe, effective and ethical nursing care. Specifically, the establishment of practice standards helps nurses understand their responsibilities, make effective decisions in their practice and ultimately, provide better care.

The CNO standards are available for downloading.

For more information on nursing standards and best practices, see CNA's Standards and Best Practices page.

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Since 1999, thousands of Ontario nurses and health-care organizations have contributed to the development, implementation and evaluation of 42 nursing best practice guidelines. (The International Affairs & Best Practice Guidelines Program or IABPG is the signature program of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, with funding from the Government of Ontario, which focuses on the dissemination, implementation and evaluation of BPGs.)

These BPGs are critical to the advancement of nursing care excellence because they are evidence-based. Evidence-based health interventions are proven to be effective because they are based on systemic empirical research.

The RNAO Nursing BPGs are influencing nurses’ clinical, education, research, administrations and policy practices provincially, nationally and even internationally.

Nurses play key roles in the development and implementation of BPGs — and in the creation of evidence-based cultures. They are actively involved as:

  • expert panel members
  • external stakeholder reviewers
  • (champions) ambassadors of evidence-informed decision-making in nursing practice, academia,
    management and policy.

Best Practice Spotlight Organizations offers support to health-care organizations and academic settings who commit to implement multiple RNAO BPGs and evaluate their impact on patient and organization outcome or academic results. Also the RNAO partners with stakeholders to create system-wide uptake of best practices. A few highlights include:

  • Province-wide implementation of smoking cessation guidelines for nurses
  • Province-wide implementation of evidence-based practices in the long-term care sector.
  • National training of the BPG Champions
  • Implementation of Leadership and Client Centred Care BPGs in China.

Learn more about RNAO’s Best Practice Guidelines:

CNA Certification

The nursing profession is dedicated to establishing and maintaining high standards of care, which is why lifelong learning is promoted by the Canadian Nurses Association Certification credential.

The national nursing certification program in Canada is voluntary, and confirms that an RN has competencies in one of 19 nursing specialty/areas of nursing practice. More than 16,000 nurses coast-to-coast have achieved certification in various areas of nursing practice. Candidates must first take the Initial Certification Exam; renewal is necessary every five years.

CNA Certification shows nurses have taken initiative to keep their skills up to date and maintain professional competencies, which are recognized by provincial governing colleges and employers alike.

  • CRNE Exam requires theory and practice knowledge

    In order to pass the Canadian Registered Nurse Exam you must not only know the seven nursing values, but be able to apply them in nursing practice context!
    Get CRNE preparation help from CNA.

  • Get involved!

    The Nursing Best Practice Research Unit (NBPRU) was established in 2005 by the RNAO and the University of Ottawa to advance nursing knowledge and research in the area of BPGs. Researchers, educators, professional associations, health-care organizations, policy makers and students collaborate on BPG research conduct, dissemination, exchange and transfer.
    Learn more at