As Canadians, we believe in recognizing and supporting the regional differences of our vast country. It is a value that contributes to our national character. But in the case of nursing regulation, have we let regional differences go too far?

Our jurisdictional approach to nursing regulation has led to a multitude of solutions to the same problems. This, in turn has created unnecessary barriers to the free movement of nurses across the country. Do we really need a different approach to regulation in Timmins, ON from the one we have in Dawson Creek, BC or Charlottetown, PEI? As someone who has been deeply involved in the regulation of health professions for over 15 years, my answer has slowly evolved to “no.”

I believe that continuing to work in silos, and the absence of common standards across Canada is inefficient, expensive and most importantly, impedes our ability to deliver on our mandate to protect the public.

Nursing is one of the most important and highly mobile workforces on the planet. In Canada we should be able to find simple and common solutions to regulatory concerns and issues. We ought to be making this a priority and getting it done right.  We need to do this now. If we don’t do this ourselves, I believe that changes will be mandated by government.

In July, the Council of the Federation – comprised of the provincial premiers and the prime minister –announced that they had reached an agreement on a new approach to internal trade in Canada. The new Canadian Free Trade Agreement will replace the current Agreement on Internal Trade. It appears that the new agreement will modernize the approach towards the movement of goods, services and people within the country by further reducing barriers and applying it to an even wider scope within the provincial and federal economies. It is expected that this new agreement will be ratified by each province and territory and will come into effect relatively soon.

For health professional regulators, this means we will need to re-examine our policies and practices in light of the new agreement and resulting expectations of greater mobility and the reduction of regulatory barriers between the provinces and across the country. In Canada, there are 22 separate nursing regulators (though in BC, our three are joining to create a single new regulator). The new Canadian Free Trade Agreement will challenge us to  determine how to align ourselves to best support the most effective and efficient way to regulate nurses in the public interest, while at the same time further reduce barriers to trade, procurement of services and labour mobility.  Perhaps this will be the catalyst we need for greater harmonization of nursing regulation in Canada. I applaud the Council of the Federation for this decision, and look forward to continuing improvements to nursing regulation.

Your thoughts and comments on this issue are welcomed.  Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me directly at ceo@crnbc.ca.