At the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford from 1914, and at the Saskatchewan Hospital Weyburn from 1921, ward attendants cared for mentally ill patients. They were trained “on the job” and paid a salary while training. They provided custodial care to patients and performed their “occupational therapy” on the grounds and in the garden, kitchen and laundry. In 1930, formal on-the-job two-year ward attendant training programs were begun. After a study commissioned by the new CCF government in 1944, a three-year in-hospital psychiatric nursing training program commenced in September 1947, leading to a Diploma in Psychiatric Nursing. In 1948, an Act Respecting Psychiatric Nurses was passed, and the Saskatchewan Psychiatric Nurses' Association began registering psychiatric nurses.
In 1972, because of the use of psychotropic drugs, the reduction in patient numbers in the mental hospitals, the move away from large and expensive mental institutions, and the trend to relocate all nursing education away from the in-hospital model, the Psychiatric Nursing Training Program was reorganized and moved to the Wascana Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences (now the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied science and technology). This operated until the mid-1990s, when the Registered Psychiatric Nurses' Association of Saskatchewan (RPNAS; the name was changed in 1993) was asked to consider a joint venture with the University of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences, and the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan to develop a nursing work force across the province with baccalaureate degrees rather than with diplomas.
The Nursing Education Program (NEP) of Saskatchewan began in September 1996, but generated increasing concern that it was not adequately preparing students for psychiatric nursing. In 2001, after an external review, the RPNAS denied approval of the program, as well as registration to anyone who completed the NEP after 2002.