As her drawn-out disciplinary hearing continued Friday in Regina, Strom’s lawyer Marcus Davies and the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association (SRNA) counsel Roger Lepage put forth their submissions on penalty — Lepage suggesting $30,000 total.
Strom took to Facebook on Feb. 25, 2015, to comment on the care of her recently deceased grandfather at a long-term care facility in Macklin. She suggested a lack of compassion and education among staff.
Had I known that this would be the outcome, I wouldn’t have said what I said
Her disciplinary hearing began Feb. 10, 2016. In October, the SRNA discipline committee found Strom guilty of professional misconduct, as her Facebook post was found to “harm the standing of the profession of nursing,” under the Registered Nurses Act.
As proceedings wrapped up Friday afternoon, discipline committee chairman Chris Etcheverry gave Strom an opportunity to speak.
“Thanks for asking me to talk,” Strom said. “It’s been a very stressful couple of years, and it’s just very surreal … having to sit and listen to your life and yourself being discussed.”
It has been a “very taxing” time, both financially and health-wise.
“Had I known that this would be the outcome, I wouldn’t have said what I said, and I’ve definitely learned from what’s gone on,” said Strom.
In finding her guilty, the SRNA wrote its intent was not to “muzzle” Strom.
The discipline committee will render its written decision as soon as possible.
Lepage argued Strom’s penalty should include a formal reprimand placed on the public register, course work, and a review of professional standards and the Canadian Nurses’ Association code of ethics.
He also suggested a $5,000 fine — “to drive home” that she should not publicly criticize her profession — plus $25,000 to help cover costs of the investigation and hearing, which so far tallies almost $143,000.
Davies disputed this, arguing the SRNA should pay all expenses as it failed to negotiate an agreement in good faith.
As both parties attempted to resolve the case through a consensual resolution agreement (CRA) between March 25 and Aug. 20, 2015, Lepage said Davies and Strom would not co-operate within the required four months, resulting in the hearing.
Davies said the issue was the SRNA’s “accusatory language” and “inflammatory” claims, including accusing Strom of “professional incompetence.” The wording didn’t improve after amendments.
Strom had agreed to the investigation committee’s conditions — education, and reviewing standards and ethics. She had made “every effort to try to resolve this without coming here,” said Davies.
“She was being punished for actually trying to reach an agreement by consent.”
Any fine should be “nominal in nature,” $1,000 or less, Davies said, as “she’s already paid an awful lot” in this process: The investigation has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses and missed work.
This is the SRNA’s first disciplinary hearing related to social media.
Lepage referenced five cases that could inform the penalty — including one in which a nursing home employee published derogatory posts and personal information about residents of the home, and one in which a teacher blasted his employer for alleged homophobia.
Davies said, aside from the use of Facebook, Strom’s case does not compare, and a $30,000 penalty would be “way out of line.”
Strom’s Facebook post alleged some staff were not “up to speed” on end-of-life care and could use a refresher.
Strom, a registered nurse in the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, often uses social media as a health advocate, but this post was written as a grieving granddaughter. The Macklin facility is part of the Heartland Health Region.
As the hearing began a year ago, six registered nurses who cared for Strom’s grandfather said they felt her Facebook post had tarnished their reputations.
Strom generally referenced “staff” and did not criticize nurses in her post.
In its verdict, the discipline committee ruled Strom had breached the CNA code of ethics, which promotes respect, meaningful communication and collaboration with other health-care workers.
Davies said he has already filed an appeal, suspended until these proceedings conclude. The appeal may be heard by a SRNA council or a Court of Queen’s Bench judge.