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Statement by CNA president Barb Shellian on CTV’s W5 report on drug diversion by nurses

Ottawa, February 3, 2018 — Barb Shellian, president of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), issued the following statement in response to the “Hospital Secrets” report from CTV’s W5:

“Canada’s health-care system is among the safest in the world. Patient safety is a fundamental aspect of nursing care, a moral and ethical imperative at the core of the profession.

“Canadian nurses, like any other Canadian professionals, are not immune to mental health and addiction issues. It is important to understand that if nurses experiencing problematic substance use do not receive help, there is a higher risk of harming patients, themselves and their colleagues.

“CNA remains steadfast in its support for harm reduction approaches that treat any person with problematic substance use with dignity and compassion. It is of the utmost importance to combat the stigma associated with substance use and addictions and ensure nurses practise in safe environments that permit them to have honest conversations. The rationale for intervening when a nurse exhibits inappropriate nursing behaviour should always be focused on the protection of patients, not on the punishment of the nurse.

“CNA promotes quality care and patient safety by providing resources and tools to support individual nurses as they meet ongoing regulatory requirements such as continuing competence, professional standards and ethical practice. We will continue to advocate for constant improvements to our health-care system and for adequate programs and resources to support nurses across Canada.”


CNA’s Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses outlines the expected guidelines for a nurse when it comes to substance use:

  • Nurses are accountable for their actions and answerable for their practice.
  • Nurses maintain their fitness to practise.
  • Fitness to practise [includes] all the qualities and capabilities of an individual relevant to their practice as a nurse, including … dependence on alcohol or drugs that impairs their ability to practise nursing.
  • If they [nurses] are aware that they do not have the necessary physical, mental or emotional capacity to practise safely and competently, they withdraw from the provision of care after consulting with their employer. … Nurses then take the necessary steps to regain their fitness to practise, in consultation with appropriate professional resources.


The Canadian Nurses Association is the national and global professional voice for Canadian nursing, representing over 139,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Canada. CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.

For more information, please contact:

Kevin Ménard
Lead, Communications
Canadian Nurses Association
Cell: 613-266-8230
E-mail: kmenard@cna-aiic.ca