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Nursing professional responsibility includes professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities and cultural safety. Nurses have a professional responsibility to demonstrate knowledge and judgment and be accountable for their actions and decisions. Nurses must also be aware of how their actions and decisions reflect on their reputation, their employer’s/organization’s reputation and the nursing profession in general.

Case studies



Do my clients have the right to know my name?

As a general rule, clients have a right to know who is caring for them. One way of demonstrating accountability is sharing your name and title with your clients.

All nurses have the right to be safe. Health care agencies need to balance clients' interests with staff safety. Agencies should have policies on staff identification, documentation and releasing employee names.

If I am charged with a criminal offence, do I need to tell BCCNM?

Yes. The college requires nurses to report criminal charges. Under the Criminal Records Review Act, nurses charged with a relevant or specified criminal offence must promptly report it to the college.

Report as soon as a charge is laid

We require nurses to contact us as soon as a criminal charge has been laid, before the information is disclosed to us by law enforcement or other third parties. We have an obligation to deal with such information in a transparent and fair manner while pursuing our public protection mandate.

Licensed practical nurses are also required to disclose any outstanding or recently concluded charges every year when renewing registration. Failing to do so is considered to be misconduct under the Health Professions Act and will result in an investigation by our Professional Conduct Review department.

When we learn of a new charge or conviction for a criminal offence listed in the Criminal Records Review Act, we (a) require you to authorize a new criminal record check, and (b) notify your employer that we are requesting a criminal record check because you have disclosed an offence listed in the Act. All nurses must consent to a criminal record check every five years.

Requirements under legislation

The Criminal Records Review Act, helps protect children and vulnerable adults from physical, sexual or financial abuse. Under the Act, convictions include "conditional discharges," ""alternative measures" and "peace bonds" ordered under sections 717 and 810 of the Criminal Code.

Applicants must also disclose charges and convictions

Applicants to the college are required to disclose all outstanding charges and concluded criminal matters when applying for registration.

I forgot to renew my registration. Yesterday my employer told me to stop working and call BCCNM. What should I do?

There are several important reasons why you cannot work as a registered nurse unless you have current practising registration with BCCNM.

  • Under the Health Professions Act, you can only call yourself a registered nurse if you are registered with BCCNM. This assures the public that anyone using one of the protected nursing titles is legally entitled to practise nursing.
  • If you practise nursing without being registered, you are violating your Professional Standards. This standard states that registered nurses maintain current registration. You — not your employer or BCCNM — must ensure that your registration is current.

If you have been practising nursing without being registered, you must stop immediately, inform your employer and contact BCCNM’s Registration, Inquiry and Discipline Department for direction. If you have worked for more than 60 days without practising registration, you will be referred to BCCNM’s Professional Conduct Review Process.

In the meantime, your employer may determine that there is other work you can do that is not considered the practice of nursing and assign this work to you.

When we have to work over census or short-staffed, I’m concerned that client care may be compromised. What should I do?

Situations where the need for health care is greater than the available resources require your professional judgment and ethical decision making. You are responsible for providing safe, appropriate and ethical care to the best of your ability.

The following strategies may help you:

  • Work with the care team to assess client needs, staff capacity and available resources. Be sure to consider environment safety needs such as oxygen, suction, and access to call bells.
  • Set priorities, adjust client plans of care and care delivery as needed. This may include moving clients to ensure appropriate access to equipment or monitoring.
  • Identify and communicate any immediate safety concerns to the appropriate person, such as your supervisor or manager.
  • Explore whether discharging or transferring clients is an option. Include physicians in the discussion when appropriate.
  • Check in with the care team regularly throughout the shift to reassess and adjust care plans as needed.
  • Document the situation and communicate any concerns to your manager.

Working with limited resources and 10 tips may provide further information and guidance for these situations.  For further assistance contact

When we work short-staffed, we’re not always able to meet all our clients’ care needs. Can we be reported for not meeting standards?

In this type of situation it is very unlikely that you would be reported to BCCNM. For BCCNM to become involved, a formal written complaint must be received, describing how a nurse’s unethical, impaired or incompetent practice puts clients’ at risk.


It’s important to remember that even in situations where you cannot provide optimal client care, you can still meet the Professional Standards. These situations are usually beyond your individual control and often require a systems approach for resolution. You are responsible for providing the best care possible under the circumstances. In these situations:

  • Start by assessing client needs, available staff and mix.
  • Communicate any immediate safety concerns to your manager or supervisor.
  • Work with the care team, set priorities, and adjust client plans of care and care delivery as needed.
  • Check in with the care team frequently during the shift. Reassess and adjust client plans of care as appropriate.
  • At the end of your workday, document the situation and your concerns and share with your manager.

By following these steps, you are likely meeting your Professional Standards and your obligation to provide clients with safe, competent, ethical care.

You’ll find more information and guidance in in the resource Working with limited resources.

For further assistance contact

I’m expected to work in an unfamiliar practice area. Can I refuse?

Your employer has a right to reassign you to another area. You were likely hired by an agency or health authority and cannot refuse to be reassigned.

Consider what care you can safely provide, while practicing within your level of competence. Clearly communicate this to the most appropriate person such as your immediate supervisor and discuss any concerns about your reassignment.  Refusing a reassignment is generally justified only when the risk of harm to clients is greater if you accept than if you refuse. If you don’t have the competence to work in the assigned area, collaborate with others to determine the best option and follow up in writing.

Working in an unfamiliar practice area can be challenging and anxiety provoking. Using these strategies may help:

  • Ask for an orientation to the clients, environment and resources.
  • Review your assignment with the charge nurse and discuss the care requirements for your assigned clients.
  • Outline your competencies as they relate to the client care required, indicating what care you can safely provide and what you cannot.
  • Communicate regularly with the charge nurse/team leader about changes to your clients and their plan of care.
  •  Ask for nurse to be assigned as your resource person.

Working with limited resources may provide further information and guidance for these situations.  For further assistance contact