FAQ for Nursing Students
- What can CNPS do for students?
The Canadian Nurses Protective Society (CNPS) provides professional liability information to students through the CNPS web site. This is the only CNPS service available to students.
The CNPS web site is a valuable resource for students, to learn about risks that nurses face in practice. The infoLAWs, case study quizzes and articles will show you why nursing fundamentals like documentation, accountability, patient safety, confidentiality, and consent are important. You can also learn about specific legal risks for nurses working in areas such as obstetrics, the operating room, community and public health, independent practice, or as nurse practitioners.
- What can't CNPS do for students?
Nursing students are not entitled to CNPS' legal consultation services or financial assistance from CNPS.
- Why aren't students eligible for CNPS financial assistance?
CNPS' services are funded by 10 registered nurses' professional assocations and colleges, for the benefit of their registered members. Therefore, only Registered Nurses who are members in good standing with one of CNPS' member associations and colleges are eligible for financial assistance from CNPS.
If you are a post-basic student and are a member in good standing of one of CNPS' member associations or colleges, you would be eligible for CNPS protection and services.
- When does one become eligible for CNPS protection and services?
After you have graduated, written the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination, and registered with one of CNPS' member associations or colleges, you will automatically be eligible for CNPS protection and services. CNPS protection is occurrence based, which means you need to be a member in good standing at the time of an occurrence to receive assistance from CNPS.
CNPS' 10 member nursing associations and colleges include all in Canada, except British Columbia and Quebec. In Ontario, only RNAO members are eligible for CNPS services. The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is not a member of CNPS.
If you plan to work in Ontario after you graduate and become an RN, please note: you must join the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, in addition to the College of Nurses of Ontario, in order to be eligible for CNPS protection and services.
- Who is liable when a nursing student is on a placement?
Nursing students on placement generally have liability protection through an agreement between the school of nursing and the facility where the student does a practicum. Your educational institution and/or the facility where you are on placement would generally be responsible for your legal defence costs .
- Can a nursing student be sued?
Yes. Nursing students can and have been found negligent in their care of patients while on practicum.
In British Columbia, a judge allowed a patient, who had already initiated a lawsuit against a hospital and physicians, to add a nursing student, the student's supervisor and the student's university to the list of defendants. The patient had intended to sue the nursing staff by naming the hospital as a defendant, but later discovered that the hospital might claim it was not responsible for the student's actions, as the student was not a hospital employee.1 At trial, the claims against all defendants were dismissed, and the patient was ordered to pay legal costs to the "hospital defendants" (which included the hospital, the student nurse, the student's supervisor and the student's nursing school).2
A student nurse in Nova Scotia was named in a lawsuit, where she used an improper intramuscular injection technique and permanently injured a patient. The student nurse was found negligent, and the hospital was found vicariously liable for the student's actions.3 In another case, a nursing intern was assigned to care for a post-operative patient. The nursing intern did not sufficiently monitor the patient, and as a result, the patient tried to use his arm as a crutch to alleviate his own discomfort, and sustained ulnar nerve damage. Although the intern was not personally named as a defendant in the ensuing lawsuit, the judge found the hospital vicariously liable for the nursing intern's neglect and negligence.4
Nursing students are accountable for their own actions, and must know and adhere to their own competencies and standards. Further information about the accountability of student nurses and their preceptors is available from the article Managing legal risks in preceptorships.
1. Cowherd v. Mission Memorial Hospital Foundation,  B.C.J. No. 2088 (S.C.), online: QL (BCJ).
2. Cowherd v. Mission Memorial Hospital Foundation,  B.C.J. No. 1051 (S.C.), online: QL (BCJ).
3. Roberts v. Cape Breton Regional Hospital (1997), 162 N.S.R. (2d) 342 (S.C.).
4. Farrell v. Cant (1992), 104 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 9 (Nfld. S.C. (T.D.)).
THIS PUBLICATION IS FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. NOTHING IN THIS PUBLICATION SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE FROM ANY LAWYER, CONTRIBUTOR OR THE CNPS. READERS SHOULD CONSULT LEGAL COUNSEL FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE.