Judge weighs appeal from nurse penalized after Facebook post criticizing grandfather's care

In 2016, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association found Carolyn Strom guilty of professional misconduct after she criticized her grandfather's palliative care in a Facebook post.

Carolyn Strom's lawyer argues people in self-regulating professions need to be able to make public comments

After being found guilty of professional misconduct by the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association, Carolyn Strom is hoping that an appeal will clear her of any wrongdoing. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

A judge has reserved decision in a Saskatchewan nurse's appeal of her being found guilty of professional misconduct.  

"We're just hoping that the right decision is made and that we'll be able to move on," said Carolyn Strom, as she and her friends and family gathered Friday for her appeal at Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench.  

In 2016, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association found Strom guilty of professional misconduct after she criticized her grandfather's palliative care in a Facebook post.

She was fined $26,000 in penalties and was ordered to write a self-reflective essay on what she did wrong, as well as to complete an online course on the Canadian Nurses Association's code of ethics.

A fundraising campaign saw a $26,000 target reached to pay her fine.

During Friday's proceedings, Strom's lawyer argued that the SRNA's discipline committee breached the nurse's rights of thought, belief, opinion and expression.

Marcus Davies said the penalty imposed on Strom was excessive and unreasonable, and requested that the appeal court find her not guilty.

"Anybody who practises in a self-regulating profession, if this precedent stands, can be gagged by their regulatory body if they make a public comment about a public issue," said Davies.

A comment posted on Facebook has a Prince Albert nurse facing charges of professional misconduct. (CBC)

In the Facebook post, Strom spoke about her experience with her grandfather in palliative care, writing it was "evident that not everyone is 'up to speed' on how to approach end of life care or how to help maintain an ageing senior's dignity."

She wrote that some people in the facility had provided excellent care, but said "to those who made Grandpa's last years less than desirable, please do better next time."

Roger Lepage, legal counsel for the nursing association, argued as to the need for professional conduct at all times.

"Just because you're off duty doesn't mean that you can hang up your professional hat," he said, outside of the courtroom. "You still have to be careful about what you say, how you say it, through what channel you say it, because you're on 24/7."

Justice Grant Currie has heard arguments from both sides, and has reserved his decision, with no timeline as to when the decision will be released.

With files from Victoria Dinh