Professional Liability Protection In A Pandemic

All three levels of government continue to be actively engaged in preparing for emergencies such as the influenza pandemic. The SARS outbreak in 2003, and the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 highlight the importance of nursing in controlling and containing communicable disease. As nursing resources became stretched during these outbreaks, the fact that theremust be enough nurses licensed to practice by their regulatory body to meet the demand in the jurisdiction was also highlighted.


As part of their emergency preparedness planning, regulatory bodies have considered the implications of mobilizing persons who are not currently in the nursing work force, such as retired nurses or student nurses, or who are licensed and working in another jurisdiction. Some have statutory provisions to assist them. For example, the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba has explicit powers during a public health emergency pursuant to section 9.1 of The Registered Nurses Act, CCSM c R40:

9.1(1) Despite anything in this Act or the regulations, the board may waive any requirements for registration under this Act and the regulations to allow a person who is authorized to practise nursing as a registered nurse in another jurisdiction in Canada or the United States to practise nursing in the province during an emergency, if the minister gives the board written notice that

(a) a public health emergency exists in all or part of the province; and
(b) he or she has determined, after consulting with public health officials and any other persons that the minister considers advisable, that the services of a registered nurse from outside the province are required to assist in dealing with the emergency.

9.1(2) The board may exercise its authority under subsection (1) even if no emergency has been declared under an enactment of Manitoba or Canada.

9.1(3) If necessary to carry out the intent of this section, the board may authorize the executive director to issue a certificate of practice to a person allowed to practise under subsection (1), on such terms and conditions as the board may determine.


The Canadian Nurses Protective Society's (CNPS) member organizations have different categories of nursing membership and designate the categories that will be eligible for CNPS services when paying an annual membership fee to CNPS. These categories generally include temporary permit holders. Nursing students who are not registered nurses are not eligible for CNPS services.

At present, no CNPS member organization has designated a specific category of nurses for public health emergencies. This means that if at the time of the incident giving rise to the legal proceedings, the nurse belonged to one of the existing categories included in the member association or college's membership fee to CNPS, the nurse is eligible for CNPS services and assistance, including professional liability protection. As these categories include temporary permit holders, this could include non-RN nursing students if the member association or college issues a temporary permit to these students to practice nursing during a pandemic crisis. The student's eligibility for CNPS protection would be limited to the duration of the temporary permit. A nurse who is eligible for CNPS services and moves to another Canadian jurisdiction to do emergency work, remains eligible for CNPS services.

December 2010, Revision of July 2006

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