Sign In
Professions and Trades

Registration Practices Assessment Report 2012 - CNO

​ Registration Practices Assessment Report — Summary


In August 2012, Ontario’s Office of the Fairness Commissioner assessed the way the College of Nurses of Ontario   registers people who apply for a licence to practise in Ontario, to ensure that the registration practices are fair and continue to improve.  

This summary of the assessment includes commendable practices that are under way and recommendations for improvement.

The College of Nurses of Ontario is subject to Ontario's fair access law, which amended the law about health professions, the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA). The law spells out the college’s obligation to have transparent, objective, impartial and fair registration methods and requirements.

The Office of the Fairness Commissioner

To encourage accountability under the fair access law, the Office of the Fairness Commissioner (OFC) works with professions’ regulatory bodies to improve the way they register people who apply for professional licences. As a result of the OFC’s work, qualified people, no matter where they were originally trained, will have faster, fairer access to their licence to practise here.

In its work with regulators so far, the OFC has found that they have succeeded in streamlining their registration processes, but they need to do more. For example, regulators need to be more transparent and hold their assessment agencies more accountable for fairness.

To encourage, and hold regulators accountable for, continuous improvement, the OFC assesses their licensing practices in a two-year cycle. This cycle includes recommending improvements where needed and monitoring the bodies’ action plans that address the OFC’s concerns. This approach benefits applicants, the professions and the province.

You can read more about the OFC’s strategy for continuous improvement and its guide for assessments elsewhere on this site.

For more information about this particular assessment, contact the OFC.

Note: The words license, register and certify all refer to authorizing a person to practise a profession.


Commendable Practices

The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is demonstrating many commendable practices, in the following areas. (These areas correspond to the sections of the assessment guide, and are derived from the fair access legislation.)

Information for Applicants

  • On its website, the CNO clearly informs applicants about the following:
    • requirements that may be satisfied through acceptable alternatives
    • policies and procedures relating to the accommodation of special needs
    • resources that support applicants during the registration and assessment process (including links to the Canadian Nurses Association, which offers a study guide and online practice test for the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination and the Canadian Practical Nurse Examination, and hardcopy preparation guides for the Canadian Nurse Practitioner Examination)
    • numerous factsheets that describe the steps applicants must take to start the registration process, including applicants applying outside of Canada
    • workshops offered by HealthForceOntario to inform international applicants about the registration process
  • CNO's internal wiki website ensures that all of CNO's customer service representatives stay current about the registration process.
  • The CNO website includes a directory that shows all registration fees that are under the CNO's control, and other costs associated with the registration process.
  • The CNO's communications policy requires staff to send letters to applicants at key intervals in the application process, informing them about the status of their applications and identifying any outstanding requirements.

Internal "Review"

  • The CNO has a fair and transparent system for ensuring an effective internal review process for applicants.

Documentation of Qualifications

  • The CNO has a process for:
    • determining whether documentation is unobtainable for reasons beyond an applicant's control
    • examining alternatives for missing documentation
    • helping applicants get alternative documentation if the required documentation is unobtainable

Assessment of Qualifications

  • The CNO reviews the websites of the Canadian Nurses Association and Assessment Strategies Inc., and meets with them regularly, to discuss updates about changes they have made on their websites, and to ensure that the information provided is sufficient and accurate.
  • The CNO contacts language-testing agencies when they change scoring benchmarks or testing mechanisms.


  • The CNO has a process for ensuring that new registration staff members are:
    • oriented to the process of evaluating credentials and authenticating documents
    • trained on the applicable registration regulation
    • provided with updated application information (at weekly staff meetings)
  • Staff members who deal with applications have completed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act online education module, and plans are underway to provide an educational session on human rights.
  • The CNO ensures that staff members receive training in any special considerations that may apply in the assessment of applications.
  • CNO staff must participate in a mandatory self-administered cultural knowledge test.


  • The CNO's communication policy requires staff to inform all applicants (regardless of where they reside) about how their applications are progressing. Queries from international applicants are responded to by an assigned registration administrator. The CNO encourages applicants to contact the CNO for clarification as often as necessary.


  • The CNO has developed worksheets for measuring an applicant's application against the CNO's registration criteria. The worksheets provide a good summary of what is required to make objective registration decisions.


  • Specific training on applying assessment criteria is provided to staff members to help them identify current and accurate documentation. This training ensures that decision-makers do not undervalue applicants from certain jurisdictions or give undue preference to applicants from other jurisdictions.


  • Acceptable alternatives exist for applicants (particularly for applicants who have completed their nursing program outside Ontario) to prove the credential or competency required. All documentation must be sent directly to the CNO, regardless of where applicants completed their nursing programs.



The OFC recommends improvements in the following areas. (These areas correspond to the sections of the assessment guide, and are derived from the fair access legislation. Recommendations marked "Required" correspond to the practices regulators must demonstrate in order to meet the specific duties in the legislation. Recommendations marked "Good" correspond to the practices the OFC encourages a regulatory body to adopt in order to meet the general duty to provide registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair.)

Information for Applicants

  • Simplify the online presentation of registration information, so the information can be easily downloaded and printed. [Required]
December 2012
  • Include exemptible requirements for Registered Nurse and Registered Practical Nurse in the CNO's registration application guide for applicants. [Good]
December 2012
  • On the website, provide French-language registration materials, and instructions for directing questions to a Call Centre representative. [Good]*
August 2012
  • Include a link on the CNO website to the Nursing Career Map (on the Ontario government's website). The map states that CNO can assess applicants' applications while they are still in their home countries, and describes the steps in the registration process that can be started outside of Canada. [Good]*
August 2012
  • Provide the following in the registration application guide:
  • information about opportunities to appeal the results of a qualifications assessment [Required]
February 2013
  • the amount of time the registration process may take for each application type [Required]
February 2013
  • an estimated range or maximum amount of time for each stage of the application process, and variables that may slow down the process [Required]
February 2013
  • Provide links to language testers on the CNO website. [Good]*
August 2012
* The CNO implemented all recommendations marked with an asterisk before the OFC completed its assessment. The OFC commends the CNO for such prompt action.
Blank = Implementation is in progress.
Checked = Recommendation is implemented.
Acceptable alternative = Regulator implements acceptable alternative to this recommendation.

Top ›