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At their emergency Council meeting in September 2021, CPSA Council deemed it necessary to create an Advice to the Profession document to address professionalism during public health emergencies. Typically, Council is not involved in the approval of advice documents; however, recognizing the significance of the matter, CPSA took an extra step to engage Council. The discussion for this advice document stemmed from requests for increased guidance on regulated members’ use of social media, as well as a presentation by the John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre on COVID-19 and Health Professionals in the Media.
The presentation not only discussed the role of Medical Regulatory Authorities (MRAs) in providing clear expectations on the use of social media by healthcare providers, it also addressed how MRAs’ mandates to protect the public extend beyond physician-patient interactions and into broader society, where conduct relates to public safety, standards and ethics. However, the presentation clearly indicated that if MRAs impose a standard limiting a healthcare professional’s expression via social media, there must be a balance between the rights and freedoms of the professional and the MRA’s mandate to protect the public.
The presenters shared a number of contextual factors for consideration, including the nexus of negative impact on the public and the profession, whether the professional was on-or-off-duty when the statement was made, whether they identified themselves as a healthcare professional and if the comment was meant to contribute to public/political discord.
Based on learnings from the presentation, CPSA drafted an Advice to the Profession document to address regulated members’ statements in public forums, including rallies. The intent of the document is to implement feedback shared with CPSA Council in September 2021 and provide clear guidance to the profession during a crisis, such as a pandemic.
During its March 2022 meeting, Council reviewed the newly-created Professionalism in Public Forums advice document and approved its publication.
Questions? Please contact Chantelle Dick, Standards of Practice Advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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