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Nursing has a proud history of service to the public, and the public expects competent nurses to provide safe and ethical nursing care. In British Columbia, the public has entrusted the BC College of Nurses and Midwives through the Health Professions Act, with the responsibility for establishing, monitoring and enforcing standards of practice and professional ethics for licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses.

What is a Standard?

A standard is an expected and achievable level of performance against which actual performance can be compared. It is the minimum level of acceptable performance.

Professional Standards

The Professional Standards, which are one set of standards under the umbrella of BCCNM Standards of Practice, are statements about levels of performance that nurses (1) are required to achieve in their practice. The Professional Standards:

  • Reflect the values of the nursing profession
  • Clarify what the profession expects of nurses
  • Represent the criteria against which nurses’ practice in British Columbia is measured by clients, employers, colleagues, themselves and others


Indicators provide specific criteria for meeting each Professional Standard in each of the four main areas of practice: clinical, education, administration and research. Indicators are used to measure the actual performance of an individual nurse. The Indicators are not written in order of importance, nor are they intended to be an exhaustive list of criteria for each Professional Standard.

The Indicators will be especially helpful for nurses who assume responsibilities in practice areas outside their primary area of responsibility. For example, a nurse whose primary responsibility is for clinical practice may at times assume responsibilities for education (e.g., teaching a student in practicum). Or a nurse who usually works in administration may sometimes be responsible for research (e.g., collecting data for a research or quality improvement study). In these cases, nurses will find helpful direction in the Indicators for the relevant practice areas.

Why have Professional Standards?

The primary purpose of the Professional Standards is to promote, guide and direct professional practice. The Professional Standards are used by individual nurses, the public, employers, BCCNM and other stakeholders.


The Professional Standards are used by registered nurses and nurse practitioners to:

  • Better understand their professional obligations
  • Support their own continuing competence and professional development
  • Explain what nursing is and what nurses do
  • Advocate for changes to policies and practices
  • Define and resolve professional practice problems
  • Include in nursing education courses/programs.


The public can use the Professional Standards to understand the expectations for professional nursing practice.


Employers can use the Professional Standards to develop systems that support nurses to meet BCCNM’s Standards of Practice. Examples include:

  • Developing job descriptions that identify expectations for practice
  • Developing orientation programs
  • Creating performance appraisal tools.


BCCNM uses the Professional Standards to meet its legal responsibility to protect the public by regulating nurses’ practice. Examples include:

  • To recognize entry-level and re-entry education programs for registered nurses and nurse practitioners in the province
  • To clarify to the public and other health care professionals what the profession expects of its members
  • To provide guidance to nurses regarding their professional obligations
  • To provide a foundation for the assessment of professional performance
  • To address incompetent, impaired or unethical practice among nurses
Who has responsibility for the Professional Standards?

The responsibility for ensuring the Professional Standards are adhered to rests with nurses themselves, employers and BCCNM.

Individual nurses

As self-regulating professionals, nurses are responsible for acting professionally and being accountable for their own practice. All nurses are responsible for understanding the Professional Standards and applying them to their practice, regardless of their setting, role or area of practice. The policies of employers or other organizations cannot relieve individual nurses of accountability for their own actions or their primary obligation to meet these Professional Standards.


Employers have a responsibility to provide essential support systems, including human and material resources, that allow nurses to meet these Professional Standards.


The college is responsible for assuring that the profession as a whole carries out its commitment to the public. This is achieved in part by establishing and regularly reviewing the Professional Standards, by providing resources to support nurses in understanding and applying them, and by developing other Standards of Practice that provide more specific information on a particular topic (e.g., nurse-client relationships, scope of practice).

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