You should not face your regulatory authorities without an experienced CNO lawyer.

A CNO lawyer works with The College of Nurses of Ontario (“CNO”). The CNO serves as governing body for registered nurses, registered practical nurses, and nurse practitioners in Ontario. Their responsibilities encompass:

  1. Determining who qualifies for a nursing certificate.
  2. Managing complaints filed against nurses and reports submitted by employers to the College.

It’s vital to understand that the College doesn’t work on your behalf. In fact, the College has the authority to:

  1. Reject an applicant’s request for a nursing certificate.
  2. Suspend, revoke, or impose terms, conditions, or restrictions on a nurse’s certificate.

If you intend to apply to the College or have received a notification of a complaint, it’s crucial to have professional representation from a nurse lawyer to safeguard your interests and protect your rights; contact a professional regulation lawyer as soon as you receive notice of the complaint to ensure the best possible outcome.

Our team of dedicated CNO lawyers can provide assistance to nurses with a variety of CNO issues, including:

  • Providing guidance to nurses on complying with relevant legislation and standards.
  • Addressing complaints, executive director investigations, and health inquiries at the College.
  • Representing nurses in proceedings before the College’s Fitness to Practice Committee.
  • Defending nurses during hearings before the Discipline Committee.
  • Advocating for nurses to resolve issues through the College’s Alternative Dispute Resolution process.
  • Offering guidance to nurses regarding the Nurses Health Program.
  • Representing nurses in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario.
  • Providing counsel to nurses on matters within their field, including those related to licensing, privacy, and confidentiality.
College of Nurses of Ontario Call Us Lawyers FAQs Discipline Committee ComplaintsProcess Registration


Applying for a certificate of registration at a college can be a rather complex process.

To become a registered nurse in Ontario, you must meet the following requirements:. 

  1. Successful completion of a nursing education program.
  2. Proof of recent nursing practice.
  3. Successful completion of the registration examination.
  4. Successful completion of either the RN/RPN Jurisprudence Examination.

After submitting your application, it undergoes a review by the Registrar, who may:

  • Grant a registration certificate.
  • Issue a registration certificate with specific terms, conditions, or restrictions.
  • Issue a registration certificate upon the applicant’s successful completion of designated training or additional examinations.
  • Refuse to issue a registration certificate.

Our office can help you compile the necessary information and provide legal guidance on any concerns you may have. If you plan to apply for a certificate from the CNO, please contact us for assistance.

Complaints Process

The College of Nurses of Ontario (“CNO”) receives information regarding a nurse’s professional practice from various sources, including:

  • Members of the public.
  • Patients of nurses.
  • Employers of nurses.
  • Colleague nurses.
  • Law enforcement.
  • Media.
  • Anonymous informants.

There are two distinct types of investigations that the College may conduct when information about a nurse is received: Complaints Investigations and Executive Director Investigations.

Complaints investigations are initiated when members of the public report concerns about a nurse’s practice to the College.

When a complaint is received, the College follows these steps:

  1. Confirm receipt of the complaint with the complainant, explain the complaints process, and identify the complainant’s concerns.
  2. Inform the nurse named in the complaint about the filed complaint and explain the complaints process.
  3. If appropriate, attempt to resolve the complaint through an alternative dispute resolution process.
  4. If the matter cannot be resolved through alternative dispute resolution, it proceeds to the investigation stage.
  5. The College’s investigator gathers information regarding the issues raised in the complaint.
  6. Once the investigation is completed, the nurse is provided with copies of the obtained documents and given 30 days to respond with written submissions.
  7. The Inquiries, Complaints, and Reports Committee (ICRC) reviews all documents and issues a decision.

Executive Director Investigations are initiated if the College has reasonable grounds to believe that a nurse has engaged in professional misconduct or is incompetent.

The Executive Director will assess whether an investigation is warranted. If not, the College may still provide advice to the nurse or require a meeting with a practice consultant.

Members of the College must report if they believe another member has sexually abused a patient, is incompetent, or incapacitated during their practice.

If the Executive Director determines that a formal Investigation is necessary, the College follows these steps:

  1. Confirm receipt of the Report with the source of the information and explain the investigation process.
  2. Notify the nurse named in the report about the investigation and explain the process.
  3. The College’s alternative dispute resolution process is not available for Executive Investigations.
  4. The College’s investigator gathers information about the issues raised in the complaint, which may include interviews with witnesses and compilation of documentation, such as client health records.
  5. Following the investigation, the member has the opportunity to respond to the complaint with written submissions.
  6. The Inquiries, Complaints, and Reports Committee (ICRC) reviews the information gathered by the investigator, the member’s response, and issues a decision.

The potential outcomes for decisions by the ICRC are consistent for Complaints Investigations and Executive Director Investigations, including:

  • Determining that no further action against the registrant is necessary.
  • Issuing advice to the nurse about practice standards and conduct.
  • Requiring the nurse to appear before the ICRC for a caution.
  • Requiring the nurse to complete a Remediation Program.
  • Referring the registrant to the Discipline Committee or Fitness to Practise Committee.

These outcomes can have significant financial and personal implications for members. If you have received a complaint from the CNO, please contact us for assistance.

Discipline Committee If the ICRC deems a complaint to be “high risk,” it may be referred to the Discipline Committee.

Before proceeding to a hearing at the Discipline Committee, a pre-hearing may be arranged. A pre-hearing offers the College and the member an opportunity to present their case informally.

In our experience, a college pre-hearing can be useful to:

  • Reduce the allegations against a member.
  • Reduce the penalties sought against a member.
  • Address important legal issues before a trial.

During a Discipline Committee hearing, witnesses may be called, and evidence is presented.

Outcomes from Discipline Committee hearings can include:

  • Requiring the nurse to complete remedial education.
  • Mandating that the nurse appears in person for a reprimand.
  • Requiring the nurse to pay a fine to the Ontario Government.
  • Imposing conditions and restrictions on a nurse’s practice.
  • Temporarily suspending the nurse from working for a specified period.
  • Revoking a nurse’s membership in the College.

These outcomes have substantial public consequences. If your case has been referred to or may be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact us for assistance.

Member’s Fitness Concerns about a nurse’s fitness to practise can be addressed through various means:

  • Referral to the Fitness to Practise Committee.
  • The Nurses Health Program.
  • Health Inquiry.

The Fitness to Practise Committee specializes in cases where a member’s conduct may be influenced by an ongoing physical or mental health condition.

In our experience, referring a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee can offer several benefits to members because:

  • Complaints are typically resolved more discreetly.
  • The focus is on ensuring the member’s health.

The Nurses Health Program is a voluntary program for nurses facing substance use and/or mental health disorders that could affect their ability to practice

Work with a Leading CNO Lawyer

In order to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome in your discipline hearings, it’s highly advisable to seek legal advice and representation from professional discipline defence lawyers. 

The team of CNO lawyers at Unified LLP have years of experience performing a variety of tasks critical to protecting your rights and ability to practice, including: 

  • Reviewing medical records
  • Representing clients before the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB)
  • Working with expert witnesses to build your defence
  • Walking you through every step of the complaint process
  • Building a strong defence that leverages all relevant legal and CNO resources

If you’ve been faced with allegations of professional misconduct, contact a team of leading nurse lawyers and professional discipline lawyers today to begin building your defence.

CNO Lawyers and Nurse Lawyers FAQ

How does a CNO lawyer interact with the nursing profession?

A CNO lawyer, or a lawyer specializing in nursing professional discipline law, represents nurses facing disciplinary charges before the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO). CNO lawyers are necessary to ensure that you have the best chance of avoiding fines and loss of license to practice.

When does a nurse need to consult a CNO lawyer?

If you encounter issues such as complaints from patients, colleagues, or employers, licensing disputes, or other legal matters related to your professional conduct or practice, then you are best served by retaining a nurse lawyer to begin constructing your defence.

What are the qualifications and expertise of CNO lawyers?

They are legal professionals with a comprehensive understanding of professional regulation law, especially the regulations of the CNO. You’ll benefit from their deep knowledge and understanding of the college’s rules, standards, and disciplinary processes.

How can a nurse lawyer assist in resolving CNO-related issues?

Your nurse lawyer will be able to provide legal guidance dealing with a variety of issues, such as malpractice claims, employment disputes, and regulatory compliance. Nurse lawyers can also represent nurses in disciplinary hearings before the CNO.

Do I need a lawyer if I’m facing disciplinary action from the CNO?

While not absolutely necessary, a CNO lawyer provides valuable legal knowledge and counsel if you face disciplinary action from the CNO. They will review your case, offer legal advice, and represent your interests throughout the disciplinary process.

How do I find a qualified nurse lawyer in Ontario?

Start by seeking recommendations from fellow nurses, colleagues, or others in your professional network. You can also search for law firms or lawyers specializing in nursing and healthcare law in Ontario (like the team at Unified LLP). You’ll want to make sure that the lawyer you choose has experience in handling cases related to the CNO and nursing practice.

What should I consider when selecting a nurse lawyer?

Consider their experience, track record, and their understanding of nursing regulations in Ontario. It’s also important to have a consultation to assess their compatibility with your needs and communication style.

How can a CNO lawyer help me protect my nursing license and career?

By supplying legal representation and guidance throughout disciplinary proceedings. They will protect your rights and ensure the CNO’s regulations are interpreted and executed fairly.

Can a CNO lawyer assist with issues other than disciplinary actions?

Yes, a CNO lawyer can assist with various nursing-related legal issues, including employment disputes, malpractice claims, contract negotiations, and regulatory compliance matters.

How do I get in touch with a lawyer to discuss my specific case?

Reach out to the team at Unified LLP for a free consultation. During the initial meeting, you’ll have the chance to explain your situation and receive an initial assessment as well as early recommendations that can have a huge impact on your case. 

Can you help with other regulatory colleges?

Yes. We have helped clients in the past deal with professional discipline inquiries and hearings. We have worked in a variety of fields, including representing clients as a:

Remember, consulting with a qualified CNO lawyer or nurse lawyer is essential when dealing with legal matters related to nursing practice in Ontario. Their expertise and support can be invaluable in protecting your nursing career and professional reputation.