Thank you to the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia for permission to adapt their case study.
When evaluating their “off duty” conduct, RNs need to understand there is a balance between their rights to behave and express themselves freely and their responsibilities as a regulated professional. One of CARNA’s obligations is to
maintain public confidence in the nursing profession, however, we believe regulation should not impose on an individual’s behaviours or fundamental right to engage in a public discussion any more than is necessary to meet our obligation.
Recent court decisions suggest that actions or remarks might be deemed to have “crossed the line” when the remarks are determined to be so highly caustic and critical (e.g. disparaging) that they could be perceived to undermine the reputation
and/or public confidence in nursing or a practice setting. A self-identifying RN’s comments and behaviours in any forum must:
be professional and respectful
be compliant with legislation and employer policy
maintain professional boundaries
not breach privacy/confidentiality or the law
not bring the profession of nursing into disrepute
Am I a nurse 24/7?
As a nurse, your actions matter. At work, you’re responsible for acting professionally and being accountable for your own practice. But how does this professional responsibility translate to your life outside of work? Are you a nurse 24/7? Keep
reading to find out.
Scenario 1: Theft
Mark, a registered nurse, befriends his elderly neighbour and helps her with her yard work, and then her banking. Under the guise of paying her bills, Mark writes cheques to himself for several thousand dollars. A colleague learns of his actions and reports
him to the College.
Scenario 2: Derogatory comments
Nikki’s personal Twitter profile identifies her as a nurse practitioner. In a response to a tweet, Nikki posts a series of racist and derogatory comments, which are retweeted by others. A member of the public, shocked and upset by the content, contacts
What's the problem?
Both situations occurred outside of the nurses’ practice and are not directly related to their work. However, their actions have the potential to negatively impact both the public’s perception of them and trust in the nursing profession as
a whole, and could be considered “unprofessional conduct” under the Health Professions Act.
Unprofessional conduct can include unacceptable behaviour that takes place outside your nursing practice.
What is your responsibility as a nurse?
Since every situation in our personal lives is unique, there’s no simple rule of thumb to follow. Instead, you’re encouraged to use your best judgment and carefully consider any behaviour that may impact your personal and professional image.
It’s not uncommon for people in our networks to know what we do for a living. While you may feel that what occurs outside of work is your personal business, you must be aware of your behavior, how it can affect the way in which you’re
seen as a professional, and how it may impact the public's perception of registered nurses and the nursing profession. That said, unprofessional conduct is something that you need to be aware of – but generally not worried about – as long as you behave ethically and within the law.
What is CARNA's role?
CARNA exists to protect the public. We recognize that it’s not appropriate to regulate and discipline all conduct that occurs outside your nursing practice. However, if your conduct threatens the public or their perception of the profession, the
College is justified in investigating. This can lead to a finding of unprofessional conduct with varying consequences depending on the situation.