Support Nurses Right To Speak Out!
As nurses, nursing students and nursing faculty in Canada, we are deeply disturbed by the SRNA's treatment of Carolyn Strom and wish to show our solidarity.
On February 25, 2015, nurse Carolyn Strom, after having witnessed what she considers inadequate care for her dying grandfather, posted a critique on Facebook of the long-term care home in which he spent his final days. Even though she was evidently distraught by the passing of her loved one, she nevertheless managed to bring some constructive criticism and advice to the staff that cared for her grandfather. Instead of addressing the concerns cited in the post directly, the staff and management of the long-term care facility filed a complaint with the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA), which is the regulatory body of professional nursing in the province. This complaint was received, and after a trial that lasted over two years where nurse Strom was ‘laid into’ as per witnesses, she was found guilty of professional misconduct (1-2). The SRNA wishes to impose a 30,000$ penalty; 5000$ in fines and 25,000$ to cover the cost of their investigations. This harsh penalty, according to the SRNA lawyer, serves to “ drive home” the message that nurses cannot publicly criticize their profession (3).
This last statement touches the core of the issue. Nurses are healthcare professionals and as such are rightfully held to high standards. They should always act in the best interest of the people they care for. But those standards should NOT include self-censorship and renouncing their right to speak-up.
Despite widespread outrage at the treatment of Carolyn Strom, including a petition signed by nearly 600 supporters asking the SRNA to reverse its decision (4), the SRNA has refused to even discuss the case with nurses or students (5).
Nurse Carolyn Strom has spent two years travelling hundreds of miles to attend her disciplinary hearings which were held hours away from her place of residence. The financial and physical toll this ordeal has taken on her is excruciating. Furthermore, her penalty hearing is coming to a close, and it is likely the SRNA will succeed in imposing the 30,000$ penalty.
Please show your solidarity by donating and/or write to the SRNA and sign the petition to express your opinion on this matter. All the funds we raise will be sent to our colleague Carolyn Strom. The SRNA decision is setting a precedent for nurses across Canada. Nurses must not be muzzled! Let nurses speak!
Marilou Gagnon, RN, PhD, Ottawa, Ont.
Damien Contandripoulos, PhD, Montreal, Qc.
Amélie Perron, PhD, Ottawa, Ont.
Natalie Stake-Doucet, RN, Montreal, Qc.
Emilie Hudson, RN, Montreal, Qc.
Caroline Dufour, RN, Ottawa, Ont.
Jaimie Carrier, RN, Dalhousie, NS.
Sophie Pomerleau, RN, PhD(c) Qc.
Anne Lardeux, MSc, Montreal, Qc.
Bernard Roy, RN, PhD, Quebec, Qc.
1- National Post article: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/shes-attacking-me-as-a-colleague-registered-nurse-facing-discipline-over-critical-facebook-post
2- Transcript of discipline decision: https://www.srna.org/images/stories/RN_Competence/Comp_Assurance_Hearings/SRNA_Discipline_Decision_Strom_Redacted_Oct_27_2016.pdf
3- Toronto Sun article: http://www.torontosun.com/2017/02/18/complaining-about-granddads-care-on-facebook-could-cost-nurse-30gs
4- Online petition: https://www.change.org/p/saskatchewan-registered-nurses-association-let-nurses-speak
5- Letter to SRNA from nursing students: https://radicalnursesite.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/nursing-students-want-to-talk-about-silence/
I support Carolyn Strom! This is an important case for nurses across Canada. It's about time we start talking about how 'official channels' often do not work and put nurses and families in situations of vulnerability. Carolyn Strom did nothing wrong. This penalty is the very definition of censorship. Thank you to all those who donated.
Paulette Leibel, Carolyn Strom was speaking on her own Facebook page not as a nurse criticizing her place of employment but as a grand daughter criticizing the care her grandfather received. I hope that a private citizen can always have a right to free speach as a private citizen in this country. If she had concerns about the care someone was getting in her place of employment then she should use the "private channels". I don't see any problem with this. It's shameful.
I'm seeing many comments about "the nurses' union" here, filled with righteous indignation. If I might clarify for those who are confused, this case was brought by the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association, the professional regulatory body for registered nurses in the province. The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is an entirely separate (and dare-I-say diametrically opposed) group. In fact, SUN would have provided Carolyn with legal support throughout her ordeal. Witch hunts such as these are occurring in every province, but are usually not publicized as this one was. The definition of professional misconduct appears to becoming looser and looser, to the point where virtually any act - be it within the workplace or without - is a potentially punishable one. One only needs be identified in some way as a registered nurse and the game's afoot. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Whistleblower Act seem toothless in the face of such persecution. The very fact these cases are called tribunals speaks to the extreme punitive measures to be taken and it's frightening the degree of vitriol being heaped upon nurses these days.
This is not the Canada I've grown up in. Instead, it places Canada squarely into the same category as other suppressive regimes around the world. Unfortunately, Canada's Whistleblower law (425.1 of the Criminal Code), which makes it 'a criminal offence for employers, anyone acting on behalf of an employer, or a person in a position of authority over an employee, to take disciplinary action, demote, terminate, otherwise adversely affect the employee’s employment, or threaten any of these things, in order to force the employee to refrain from providing information to law enforcement officials about the commission of an offence by his or her employer or by an officer, employee or director of the employer', and makes it 'an offence to threaten or retaliate against an employee who has already provided information' , apparently does not apply to whistleblowers.
This is totally wrong,she has a right to complain about the care a family member recieved.We as nurses,or retired nurses belong to an association that is also supposed to protect the public,this association has missed the opportunity to do just that,instead they are victimizing this family member.
I post a comment here as I have noted several posts from persons who clearly don't have an understanding of the limitations of the disciplinary process that has been referenced on this page. I had thought these limitations to be obvious, but it seems this is not the case. Also, my comment here is about just that - process. Note that I do support this campaign, which, as I said before, seems a most unreasonable levy sanctioned against one of the most reasonable persons I know. Firstly, the SRNA disciplinary process was not tasked with determining whether adequate/inadequate care was provided to the now deceased person. Its scope was to determine whether (in their opinion) discipline was necessary against the RN who spoke up about this person's care, and in this case, what that penalty should be. The SRNA may be the regulatory body for RNs whom work in the facility, but it has little jurisdiction over the facility itself. Those who are pointing to the absence of apparent shortcomings at the facility in the full transcript of the SNRA decision and using that as a basis to argue a point here are being naive. They are foolishly assuming that the lack of such information in the decision infers that the RN in question had no basis for her complaint. This decision does not address that. I have read the full text of the SRNA's decision as published online. As per that reference, I note that witnesses from the facility - presumably RNs - testified at the hearing. As per the boundaries of the process, their published testimony regarding any care could only be related to their understanding of whether there had been previous complaints by the RN in question and if due process had been followed. Secondly, I direct another important clarification toward those whom are stating that they see no evidence of shortcomings at this facility. They should clearly recognize the limits of such personal statements. There can be no way for them to actually know if adequate care was provided to the deceased person in question, while also recognizing that it is none of their business. They are not family members of the deceased person in question, and I can safely assume that they were not spending every moment of their own lives with their own family members at this facility, while directly witnessing all care being provided to other residents. Furthermore, and most importantly, the investigation into the care provided at this health facility was and is a completely separate process from the SRNA's process, and I gather that if/when such an investigation into said facility were ever to be "made public", that all their questions would be answered. Finally, I recognize this is a difficult situation for all directly involved and indirectly involved parties. However, I strongly encourage those that are using the above flawed arguments to take a step back while perhaps toning down their own outrage - which seems to be clearly fueled by their connections to the community in question - and recognize the infallible reality of the above.
In the judgement handed down by the SRNA, was there any indication that mistreatment had actually taken place? The bottom line is that she improperly and naively vented on a public platform where she called into question the abilities of fellow nurses. Facebook is not the place for such criticism. There are channels and protocols to lodge complaints. There is no indication that her concerns were not addressed by the administration at the facility in question. In fact, her mother has stated in this forum that their concerns were addressed. The judgement levied $25,000.00 for costs associated with the hearing and investigation and a $1000 fine. In their first finding, SRNA offered Ms. Strom an alternative penalty which she chose to decline to accept in favour of pursuing the issue further. She should have been aware of the possible consequences and ramifications of her actions given the evidence and determination of the first part of the hearing. Who is to be held responsible for the costs of the hearing - salaries for staff to attend the hearing to defend themselves, investigators, etc? Do you believe the health care facility should absorb the cost? This should be a lesson to all people, especially those of you in a profession, use the proper procedures when you have a complaint. Facebook or other social media is not the place to air your grievances when the subject/s are not able to respond, either because of being unaware of the posting or because they are morally bound by their professional Code of Conduct. It is incorrect to picture Ms. Strom as a 'whistleblower' and to assume that there is an ongoing problem with this facility. St. Joseph's Health Care Facility operated as St. Joseph's Hospital beginning in 1926 when the Sisters of St. Elizabeth came to Macklin to provide health care. It transitioned into a health care facility in the 1990s. It is a small facility of 25 beds where excellent, compassionate care is provided for the elderly and infirm of our community. The admirable and precious legacy of the Sisters has been tarnished with the negative publicity and comments these accusations have generated. Present staff who work tirelessly to provide quality care have also been negatively impacted by negative reports in the media and the negative comments posted by people who have little true knowledge of how things really are in this place and this community and who have based their view on a very narrow and subjective source of information. I wholeheartedly support the staff of St. Joseph's and empathize with them knowing the stress this has caused. They did not deserve to have their competence and emotional investment in the care of their clients called into question and then to be disparaged by many on social media.
It is disgusting how SRNA is abusing their powers. As a nurse myself, I fully support Carolyn. I am sorry to hear this has happened to her and all the stress it has caused. May she find comfort in knowing she has the support of many people behind her. I hope all your legal costs are covered/donated and this doesn't end up costing you a cent.
I heard about this today on the CBC. I was amazed but not surprised. I am retired now but worked 41 years in health care. I was afraid to speak up about the care my Mom received in her last few months of life from one employee at the long term care facility where she lived. I waited until she passed away and could not suffer any retribution at the hand of this employee and then I wrote a long and detailed letter. The employee was fired for cause but I am still saddened that I did not speak up sooner and ease her last months. We need to support a nurse or for that fact any health care workers right to speak up when they are speaking for or advocating for the vulnerable of our society.
The problem of retribution is well known in Alberta since the time Ruth Adria (a nurse) spoke out about care issues and was sued. Ruth Adria did not stop speaking and created the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society to speak for seniors and other vulnerable people in our society. I am being sued by the Good Samaritan Society for speaking about the care of my sister at the Good Samaritan Extended Care at Millwoods in Edmonton. The health authorities--AHS and Covenant Health are partners with the continuing care industry as are the folks at Alberta Health. But who is partners with the families? This is a good question. I have spoken to three health minister--Mr.Horne, Mr. Mandel and Ms. Hoffman about the care issues, the retribution problems such as eviction, banning and lawsuits that are used against families and nothing has been done. Why has nothing been done? I guess no one wants the dirty laundry out in public. But without public discourse these problems repeat and result in fatality. A change in funding and a better system of oversight is required. Why are families reporting abuse, neglect and non-compliance to the government of Alberta? Why is there no reasonable oversight by government and the health authorities? Why are there no penalties and no required actions such as education of staff until repeated adverse events occur? Why no action with a first adverse event so a second one occurs that is identical? Why are we the ones being punished for doing the right thing while those in government who fail their work aren't held accountable?