Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

There's no need to shame nurses to protect the public

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Dear Editor:

I am a registered nurse working in Manitoba. I am responding to the publishing of nurses' names who are being disciplined for addiction by the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. The CRNM's mission is to protect the public. This is accomplished through education, practice support and regulation of registered nurses. Health Minister Theresa Oswald defends the practice and says that protection of the public needs to be paramount. A nurse's employer in Manitoba is responsible (under the Registered Nurses Act) to verify that the nurses they employ are properly registered. Proof of current membership and any special considerations or restrictions are required before you are able to provide direct patient care. This information has historically been provided from CRNM and employers are now able to access this on the CRNM website. Which is processed in real-time based on information contained in our member database at the time of the request. This seems an effective communication process; one that protects the public.

The college publishes the results of discipline proceedings and notices of censures to demonstrate the open and transparent nature of the college's complaints and discipline processes; and to educate our members on the types of actions, behaviours and activities that result in discipline findings or censures. We believe this information can help registered nurses avoid similar outcomes

For a health minister to agree that any person's rights under PHIA (Personal Health Information Act) should be violated without further investigation is frankly unconscionable. Is it really necessary to publicly humiliate people?

The public information on the CRNM website goes beyond transparency and becomes a gratuitous peek into someone else's personal health care file. If a nurse caring for you chose to disclose any of the same information about you to anyone outside the clinical setting, it would be considered a grievous breach of PHIA. They could face fines of up to $50,000.

The minister of health and the college need only prop up the fail safe patient safety flag. Then what! Suddenly PHIA does not apply to you? What surprises me is that I have not heard anyone filing a complaint with Manitoba Health or the Human Rights Commission citing a PHIA breach. Yet a person who has been publicly shamed is not likely to protest, are they?

Nurses with addictions are patients, too, as evidenced by the CRNM disclosures.

Alcoholism has been recognized for many years by professional medical organizations as a primary, chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal disease. Approximately 10 per cent of the population suffers from addictions, which span all occupations. Those who suffer from the disease and need help for their addictions will hopefully find their way to the proper Anonymous 12-step program or other support system.

Nurses I have spoken to do not have a problem with nurses being punished for criminal acts. If convicted, it becomes public record. Whether or not they are able to register with CRNM would be a matter between them and the college. Again, if they are not registered, they cannot provide direct patient care.

To reiterate: You as a patient are already protected from nurses who violate practice standards. If the college and the employer do not follow through by providing restrictions to nurses with known problems, then I suggest those facilities and the college be called out on the public mat to answer for placing both nurses and patients in jeopardy.

RAE E. Clancey, RN


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2009 A11

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