Public Statements by RNs and Compliance with Public Health Orders

Published: March 15. 2021 
Revised: October 13, 2021
[1

The COVID-19 pandemic has put unprecedented strain on our health system, and registered nurses (RNs) [2] have been at the forefront of the response for over a year and a half. As public health measures continue to evolve to mitigate the spread and impacts of the virus, it is essential that all RNs understand their professional responsibilities when responding to public health orders or making public statements on this important topic.

Because RNs hold a position of leadership and trust within the health system and the community, any statements RNs make in public forums or on social media have the potential to influence the public and be taken as an expression of professional views or advice [3]

RNs are expected to practise in accordance to the practice expectations, practice directions, and Code of Ethics. This includes expectations to: 

  1. use the best current and accurate scientific evidence to inform decisions in registered nursing practice, including public advocacy [4]; and
  2. to demonstrate professional behaviours and act as a role model in regards to observing public health measures that contribute to public safety [5];

The College strongly encourages all RNs to reflect on these and all related professional obligations (including any applicable workplace policies) before engaging in a public forum, and to avoid expressing views that are not supported by evidence such as anti-masking or anti-vaccine viewpoints, or recommending unapproved treatments for COVID-19. All RNs are expected to observe and comply with all applicable public health orders as set forth by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, including but not limited to, masking requirements, self-isolation requirements, and vaccination/testing requirements for designated persons. 

Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Requirements for Designated Persons 

All RNs should inform themselves about employer/workplace policies regarding COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements as well as where and to whom the public health order applies. They should be prepared for individuals, including clients, to inquire about their vaccination/testing status, particularly where they are self-employed, and be prepared to provide information on the applicable policies in place to ensure adequate protections from COVID-19. 

Guidance for the public regarding COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Requirements 

The College encourages members of the public to review the public health order [6] as vaccination and testing requirements may vary by health care setting. Members of the public should feel empowered to advocate for their care, including asking the facility or health care provider about their policies regarding vaccination/testing for RNs. 

Maintaining dialogue, professional conduct, and compliance with public health orders 

It is possible to encourage dialogue or suggest improvements to the current pandemic response without contributing to the distribution of scientifically unreliable or inaccurate information that is harmful to the public interest [7]. Any reports of such conduct, or reports of an RN violating an applicable public health order that are brought to the College’s attention may be subject to further investigation or steps to ensure accountability.

Resources for RNs 

​Resources for the public

Notes:

[1] This guidance has been updated as of October 13, 2021 to reflect new public health orders requiring vaccination or testing of designated persons in Manitoba.

[2] This guidance applies to all regulated members of the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba, including members in all registered nurse and graduate nurse membership classes.

[3] Entry Level Competencies of RNs, section 2.8;

[4] Practice Expectations for RNs, section 3; Entry Level Competencies of RNs, section 9.1 and 9.2;

[5] Practice Expectations for RNs, section 2; Entry Level Competencies of RNs, sections 1.7 and 2.5;

[6] Government of Manitoba News Release: COVID-19 Testing or Vaccination Requirements in Manitoba Public Sector to Begin Oct. 18

[7] RNs may wish to refer to the practice resource, Registered Nurse Responsibilities to Professional Practice Issues for support in providing leadership in the identification and resolution of professional practice issues.

 

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