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Emergency exemption

Case scenario about the emergency exemption
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Have you ever thought about whether it might be acceptable to practice outside your scope in an emergency situation?

Section 14 of the Health Professions Act allows health professionals to give first aid or temporary assistance to another person in the case of an emergency if that aid or assistance is given without gain or reward or hope of gain or reward.

The BCCNP Scope of​ Practice for RPNs: Standards, Limits and Conditions (page 8) further defines this exemption.

RPNs must provide care only within RPN scope of practice except in a situation involving an imminent risk of death or serious harm, arising unexpectedly and requiring urgent action: RPNs are ethically obligated to provide the best care they can, given the circumstances and their individual competence.

Review the situations below.

Does the emergency exemption apply if I stop to help at the scene of a traffic accident when I’m off duty?

Generally, yes. The Health Professions Act’s emergency exemption applies if the situation:

  • arises unexpectedly;
  • involves imminent risk of death or serious harm to an individual; and
  • requires urgent action

This assumes you are providing assistance without gain or reward or hope of the same.

In these situations, you are ethically o​​bligated to provide the best care you can, given the circumstances and your individual competence.

I do a lot of volunteer work in my community. Does the emergency exemption apply if I’m acting in a volunteer capacity?

This depends on the circumstances. The Health Professions Act’s emergency exemption applies to situations that:

  • arise unexpectedly;
  • involve imminent r​isk of death or serious harm to an individual; and
  • require urgent action

Unexpected situations may occur when working or volunteering as a nurse. However, you should not rely on the emergency exemption to allow you to carry out activities considered an expectation of practice in your setting, even if you are working as a volunteer.

Carrying out “emergency activities” is part of my job. My employer says the emergency exemption covers these situations.

The emergency exemption generally does not apply in this situation.

The Health Professions Act’s​ emergency exemption is meant to deal with situations that:

  • arise unexpectedly;
  • involve imminent risk of death or serious harm; and
  • require urgent action.

The emergency exemption does not cover activities that are an expectation of a nurse’s role, including activities that would be expected to arise from time to time in the ordinary course of your employment. Neither you nor your employer should rely on the emergency exemption to allow you to carry out activities considered an expectation of practice in your setting.

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Be informed – review the BCCNP Scope of Practice for RPNs: Standards, Limits and Conditions (page 8)

If you have any questions, contact a BCCNP Practice Consultant by email at practice@bccnp.ca or by phone at 604.742.6200 or 1.866.880.7101.​​