Canadian nurse penalised for posting concerns on social media

20170108150000, Rachel Seah
Her post on social media was deemed misconduct in professional behaviour
"My grandfather spent a week in palliative care before he died and after hearing about his and my family's experience there, it is evident that not everyone is 'up to speed' on how to approach end of life care or how to help maintain an ageing senior's dignity," wrote Carolyn Strom on social media in February 2015.

The online post by the registered nurse contained both critique and praise for staff at St Joseph’s Health Facility in Macklin, where her grandfather was allegedly receiving care.

"I challenge the people involved in decision making with that facility to please get all your staff a refresher on this topic and more,” she added.

“Don't get me wrong, 'some' people have provided excellent care so I thank you so very much for your efforts, but to those who made Grandpa's last years less than desirable, please do better next time.”

Breach of confidentiality - by a family member

Although Strom was not affiliated with St. Joseph’s, her posts were viewed by their staff as “humiliating" and "embarrassing” and believed that her opinions have tarnished their reputations as well as that of the health facility.

A formal complaint was lodged following the post on social media, alleging that the nurse from Prince Albert Parkland Health Region had demonstrated a lack of professionalism as a registered nurse, to which Storm pleaded not guilty.

The Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA) noted that she failed to employ appropriate channels in complaining about staff of the health facility, that she has negatively impacted the facility’s reputation, and that she used her status of a registered nurse for personal purposes.

According to Strom, there was no malice intended, adding that no individual staff were targeted. She further explained that her post was meant to advocate for better care by healthcare professionals.

“You are on the other side of that care,” Strom said, explaining that she wrote the post not as a registered nurse, but as a relative of the patient.

However, the SRNA alleged that her post on social media breached confidentiality of her grandparents, who were residents at St Joseph’s, as per the Health Information Protection Act, to which Strom said: “He was not my client.”

“He was my family member … I don’t believe that what I said on Facebook breached confidentiality on his behalf.”

Yet, SRNA lawyer insisted that her disclosure of her grandfather’s name and place of residence was a violation of the Canadian Nurses’ Association code of ethics and HIPA.

“It was also public information,” Strom said, revealing that his name had been published in the newspaper several times.

“What I revealed was not confidential.”

Free speech or unprofessionalism?

According to the decision: "The Discipline Committee accepts that Ms. Strom's Facebook post and the subsequent online communication she engaged in was motivated by perhaps grief and anger.”

"It is accepted that Ms. Strom was not driven by malice. Carolyn Strom is a professional bound to act with integrity and in accordance with the Code of Ethics.”

Despite weighing in Strom’s comments as free speech, the discipline committee ultimately decided that she was guilty of misconduct, as individuals who reference their credentials with their opinions are obligated to comply with their professional code of conduct.

"Ms. Strom engaged in a generalized public venting about the facility and its staff and went straight to social media to do that," said to the SRNA, which added that Strom should have acted in a different conduct.

However, Strom, who expressed that she has frequently turned to social media to discuss issues on healthcare said: “I do feel badly that it was interpreted in this way. That was never my intent.” MIMS

Read more:
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Sources:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/srna-discipline-social-media-nurse-saskatchewan-1.3880351
http://leaderpost.com/news/saskatchewan/registered-nurse-carolyn-strom-defends-facebook-post-at-disciplinary-hearing