Am I protected if I do volunteer nursing work?
The CNPS recognizes that nurses have valuable skills, knowledge and expertise that are an asset to their employer and to the public in general. Accordingly, some nurses may wish to volunteer to provide professional nursing services outside of the workplace setting on an unpaid basis. The CNPS recognizes the valuable services provided by nurses performing volunteer work, and the CNPS’s assistance principles apply on this basis.
For nurses who may be engaged in nursing activities as volunteers, the professional liability protection and services offered by the CNPS remain valuable as nurses may be vulnerable to legal actions arising from nursing activities even when these activities are not undertaken for financial or other forms of remuneration.
Maintaining your CNPS beneficiary status during volunteer nursing work provides the same access to all of the CNPS’s services, including legal advice and assistance for claims and civil proceedings, criminal investigations, statutory offences, witness appearances and general legal assistance as would be the case if your nursing activities were undertaken as part of your employment.
Some nurses choose to volunteer in a variety of capacities where their nursing services are not being relied upon (such as a sports coach, administrative support for an organization, etc.). In these circumstances, nurses would not normally be eligible for CNPS protection and assistance.
Additionally, a retired nurse who chooses to work as a volunteer may or may not be eligible for assistance. It is a condition of CNPS assistance that a registered nurse or nurse practitioner must hold a valid licence to practise in one or more Canadian provinces or territories. Thus retired nurses must maintain a practising licence to remain eligible for CNPS assistance. Retired nurses who chose to maintain a non-practising licence will likely not be eligible to access CNPS services.
The organization you volunteer for may also carry professional liability insurance for nurses and other staff. You may wish to consult with the organization to determine the scope and eligibility for such protection. Some organizations request that volunteer contracts be entered into prior to commencing volunteer services. The CNPS offers pre-contractual reviews relating to the provision of volunteer professional nursing services to help you determine whether other professional liability insurance exists as well as identify provisions or requirements that may compromise your professional or legal obligations.
CNPS beneficiaries can contact CNPS at 1-800-267-3390 to speak with a member of CNPS legal counsel. All calls are confidential.
Revised June 2019
THIS PUBLICATION IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. NOTHING IN THIS PUBLICATION SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE FROM ANY LAWYER, CONTRIBUTOR OR THE CNPS. READERS SHOULD CONSULT LEGAL COUNSEL FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE.