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Petitioning Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association

Let Nurses Speak

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In February 2015, Carolyn Strom – a registered nurse in Saskatchewan – posted a comment on the quality of care given to her grandfather on her personal Facebook page. Her comment, which both “criticized and praised” the staff of a health care facility was shared on social media and later reported by the staff to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association (SRNA). The details of her comment can be found in the SRNA discipline decision.

While the discipline committee recognized that her comment was permissible as free speech, she was nonetheless found guilty of professional misconduct on the basis that she failed to meet her professional obligations. In its decision, SRNA emphasized that “nurses should treat the virtual world of social media with the same professionalism as shown in the physical world". In other words, what nurses post on their personal Facebook page when they are ‘off duty’ should and can be held to the same standard as what they say when they are ‘on duty’.     

This precedent-setting decision is enough to send a chill down the spine of every nurse and nursing student in Canada. Not only is it a blatant attack on free speech, but it raises serious concerns about the rights of nurses to have a personal life and express personal opinions about the care of their loved ones, the dangers of silencing nurses even when they witness subpar care, and the impact on nursing advocacy which is the cornerstone of ethical practice. Furthermore, it raises many questions about the role of nursing professional organizations in policing and punishing behaviours protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.      

The discipline committee has made its decision public, but it has yet to determine which disciplinary measures will be implemented. We ask the committee to reverse its guilty verdict and abstain from applying any sanction. We also asked SRNA to develop a clear policy on social media that is consistent with the Canadian Nurses Association's Code of Ethics and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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