All registered nurses are responsible to provide leadership in the identification and resolution of unsafe and unethical situations that adversely affect or could affect the quality of client care (ARNNL, 2007). Leadership is required by nurses in all the domains of practice including: direct care providers, administrators, educators, researchers, and policy advisors.
The role undertaken in response to unsafe and unethical situations may vary and can include a range of activities from one-on-one discussions, to formal advocating for system changes to, if necessary, external reporting of concerns. The duty to identify and address unsafe and unethical situations is a professional, ethical, and legal responsibility arising out of the RN’s obligation to protect clients from harm and to uphold the integrity of the nursing profession. These obligations are articulated in the Registered Nurses Act (2008), Standards for Nursing Practice, Code of Ethics, and other relevant legislation.
Reporting to an employer or regulatory body an honestly held belief that a situation may be unsafe or unethical is not defamation or whistleblowing, but participation in a legitimate regulatory process (CNA, 1999; CNPS, 2003). The Registered Nurses Act (2008) outlines specific requirements for reporting a registered nurse. Section 20 (1) states “a registered nurse who has knowledge, from direct observation or objective evidence, of conduct of another registered nurse shall report the known facts to the Director of Professional Conduct Review”, and Section 20 (2) states “ A person or a corporation, partnership or association that terminates or imposes restrictions on the employment of a registered nurse based on direct knowledge of the registered nurses conduct deserving of sanction shall report the known facts to the Director of Professional Conduct Review.".
For more information on the RN duty to report, please read the Registered Nurses Act (2008), Section 20 and our interpretive document, Registered Nurses’ Professional Duty to Address Unsafe and Unethical Situations.