12/03/2016 16:32 EST | Updated 12/04/2017 00:12 EST

Nurse who 'vented' online found guilty of professional misconduct

A Saskatchewan nurse who used Twitter and Facebook to express concern about the quality of care given to a family member in a nursing home has been found guilty of professional misconduct, according to a recent decision by the body that oversees nursing in the province.

The case concerns posts by Carolyn Strom, a registered nurse who commented on Facebook in February of 2015. Her post both criticized and praised staff at St. Joseph's Health Facility in Macklin, Sask., about 250 kilometres west of Saskatoon.

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"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," Strom said online.

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

Her posting was also shared on Twitter.

While Strom was not a nurse at the facility, staff saw her postings and — according to testimony heard by a discipline committee — felt it was "humiliating" and "embarrassing".

A formal complaint was made, alleging that Strom failed to meet her professional obligations.

A committee of the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association considered the issue and found that Strom had gone too far.

"Ms. Strom engaged in a generalized public venting about the facility and its staff and went straight to social media to do that," the decision noted.

The discipline committee also considered if Strom's comments were permissible as free speech, but noted that people  who include their credentials as part of their commentary must follow the codes of their profession. Strom had identified herself as an RN and, even though her motivation was understandable, the SRNA said she should have acted differently. She had not, it was noted, taken any of her concerns to officials or staff at the facility.

No malice found

"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," the decision added. "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. The Discipline Committee does not seek to 'muzzle' registered nurses from using social media. However, registered nurses must conduct themselves professionally and with care when communicating on social media."

The committee said it would reconvene to consider an appropriate penalty. No date was provided for when that would happen.

A redacted version of the decision was recently published online:

  • EXTERNAL LINK: SRNA Discipline Decision (redacted)