Under Ontario's Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA), all professions must implement quality assurance programs. To comply with this legislative mandate, the College of Nurses of Ontario recently launched a new Quality Assurance (QA) Program, which is mandatory for nurses practicing in Ontario from this year forward.
According to the March 1997 issue of Comminique, QA aims to "assure the public that nurses in Ontario are competent throughout their careers, not just when they begin practicing." The College intends to fulfill these goals by increasing its communication with the public and, more importantly, incorporating "reflective practice" into nurses' efforts to maintain ongoing competence.
"Reflective practice" the ability to assess one's own specific needs for continuous learning involves performing regular self-assessments, asking peers for feedback and setting up a learning plan. Nurses may meet the requirement a number of ways, such as annually completing the College's Self Assessment Tool, a detailed questionnaire designed to help nurses think about their strengths and spot learning opportunities. Nurses are not required to share the questionnaires with their employers or co-workers and do not have to submit any material to the College unless randomly selected to do so.
The other two components of the QA Program are competence assessment and the Practice Setting Consultation Project (PSCP). The former ensures nurses practice according to standards and the latter allows agencies to identify, create or maintain characteristics in their workplace that promote quality practice.
Communique reports many other colleges have adopted similar reflective approaches and and self assessment tools. Likewise, participation in these programs is mandatory (source: Communique, March 1997, vol. 22, no. 1).