Nurse Practitioners to Refer Patients Directly To Specialists


The Ontario government is helping patients get faster access to the right care by removing barriers for nurse practitioners to directly refer their patients to a specialist and receive the specialist’s advice, said David Orazietti, MPP.

“Our government continues to improve access to care and find innovative ways to help Ontarians receive the healthcare they need,” said Orazietti. “By allowing Nurse Practitioners to make referrals we are making better use of their skills as healthcare providers and also improving service delivery for those in the north by reducing unnecessary travel.”

Ontario is amending the Health Insurance Act and changing the way specialists receive consultation fees to:

Remove barriers for patients to receive specialist services
Ensure patients in northern Ontario are not travelling unnecessarily to get physician referrals that could otherwise be provided by a nurse practitioner closer to home
Allow nurse practitioners to use their training to better meet patient needs
Support the delivery of collaborative, team-based care that puts patients first
Strengthen continuity of care by allowing specialists to provide advice directly back to the referring nurse practitioner
Previously, patients with a nurse practitioner as their primary care provider had to also see a physician in order to be referred to a specialist. Now, the nurse practitioner can refer directly to the specialist, which will enable nurse practitioners to provide a service that they already have the training to perform.

Nurse practitioners play a crucial part in providing patients with faster access to the right care. Supporting nurse practitioners in Ontario is part of the government’s plan to build a better Ontario through its Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care, providing patients with faster access to the right care, better home and community care, the information they need to live healthy and a health care system that’s sustainable for generations to come.

“This is exciting news indeed,” said Ali Pettenuzzo, Nurse Practitioner Lead at the Algoma Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic. “Now, NPs will be able to more easily refer patients to medical specialists, which improves timely access to care and enhances integrated care.  As well, the patient experience of navigating the health care system can be improved.”

“Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, which represents RNs, NPs and Nursing Students in the province, applauds Minister Hoskins’ focus on providing Ontarians with faster access to medical specialist services by lifting the restrictions of nurse practitioners to refer patients directly,” Doris Grinspun, CEO, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). “The real winners are Ontarians, who will experience improved access and better outcomes.”




Since 2003 the number of nurse practitioners working in Ontario has increased 313% growing from 535 to 2,209.
Nurse practitioners provide a full range of health care services to individuals, families and communities in Ontario. More than half of all Ontario nurse practitioners practice primary care, with the remainder focused on geriatrics, acute care, emergency care and cardiac care.
The number of Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Education training spots in the province has been increased from 75 spaces to 200 spaces per year.
Ontario is increasing the number of nurse practitioners in long-term care homes by 75 new positions over three years, starting with 30 this fall.
Ontario’s Grow Your Own Nurse Practitioner Initiative enables employers to fill a vacant nurse practitioner position by sponsoring a registered nurse to become a nurse practitioner.
This year, National Nursing Week runs from May 11 – 17 and International Nurses Day is on May 12.