ONA objects to new search function on CNO's Find a Nurse

September 15, 2017

ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, has written College of Nurses of Ontario Executive Director Anne Coghlan to express the ONA’s concern with CNO’s redesigned public register, Find a Nurse. Read the complete letter below or click on the link to download a copy.

Dear Ms. Coghlan,

We are writing to express our concern with CNO’s redesigned public register, Find a Nurse. We strongly object to the new search function, which invites the public to “Search by Practice Information.” It is our submission that this search function is not related to CNO’s mandate of public safety, and will serve only to target and shame individual nurses.

ONA understands and acknowledges CNO’s obligation, under the Health Professions Procedural Code of the Regulated Health Professions Act, to post certain categories of information about nurses. We recognize public safety is improved by allowing public access to disciplinary decisions, license revocations, suspensions and terms, conditions and limitations, among other types of information. This information has traditionally been readily available to members of the public and employers. If an employer or a member of the public wants to check a nurse’s discipline history or restrictions, they need only enter the member’s name to find this information. In our view, this type of search serves a legitimate public safety function.

However, CNO’s newly designed Find a Nurse includes a search function that allows the public to search, not by an individual nurse’s name, but by “Practice Information.” The drop down list includes categories like “Findings of Guilt,” “Charges,” “Results of Past CNO Hearings,” “Current Practice Restrictions,” and many more. Searching in this way allows the public to gather names of nurses according to category, and find, for example, every nurse in the province who has had a criminal conviction or every nurse who has a Discipline Committee decision. The information is gathered with no filter as to the age of the information: if it is available on the register, it will be captured by the search, regardless of how outdated the information may be.

Gathering nurses into these categories serves absolutely no public safety function. If an employer has questions about a member they are thinking of hiring, they can find that information by searching that nurse’s name. Similarly, if a member of the public has questions about a nurse who is providing care to them or a family member, they can find that information by searching the nurse’s name.

Being able to search using the category of “Practice Information” does not increase patient safety; it simply makes it easier for the media to gather lists of nurses who have a blemish of some sort on their record. The new online register becomes not Find a Nurse, but rather, “Find a Bad Nurse.” The new search function will not encourage appropriate searches for an individual nurse’s record, it will encourage fishing expeditions for lists of less than perfect nurses.

This new search function will hugely increase the potential to publicly name, shame and humiliate nurses, the vast majority of whom have been judged by CNO to be safe to practice: nurses who have worked to learn from their mistakes, improve their practice and move forward with providing excellent care to their clients. These nurses may find themselves on a list of “Bad Nurses” that is shared through the press or through social media and that permanently damages their professional reputations and causes personal humiliation.

It is worth noting that CNO’s Find a Nurse goes well beyond the depth and breadth of information that is available by the other regulatory colleges that are members of the Advisory Group for Regulatory Excellence.

Among the most distressing issues with the new Practice Information search function is the fact that groups of nurses who are recovering from mental health concerns, including addictions, will be very easy to find. If a member of the public enters “Current Practice Restrictions” or “Current Voluntary Practice Restrictions” on the drop down menu, they will see lists of nurses who have restrictions on their licenses. One such common restriction is “no administration or access to narcotics.” This restriction is an obvious indication a nurse is in recovery from a substance abuse problem.

Being able to easily locate lists of nurses who have a narcotics restriction raises serious human rights concerns and is a potential violation of a the confidentiality of a nurse’s personal health information. It is one thing to make this information available in a format that is directly connected to the protection of patients (i.e. searching a nurse by name). It is another thing to offer this information in a particular format simply because it is craved by the public or media. This is extremely concerning given that it has only been one year since ONA spent hundreds of hours negotiating with CNO an agreed improvement regarding the amount of health-related information that is posted on Find a Nurse. The newly designed Find a Nurse is a huge step backward with respect to our members’ human rights and the confidentiality of their personal health information.

For all of the above reasons, ONA is extremely disturbed by the new “Practice Information” search function on Find a Nurse. We ask that you immediately remove this search function from your website as it has no legitimate connection to public safety.



Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN