Professional vs. Personal Opinions—Being cautious in these troubled times
Posted On: October 23, 2020
These are definitely troubled times in Ontario, Canada and around the world. There are serious debates about the need for many of the public health measures being taken around the world and the impact of these measures when compared to the impact of the novel coronavirus.
As you contemplate these debates and your own positions on them, the College is calling on each Registrant to be cautious in how they may weigh in. As a person living in a free and democratic society, you are welcome to your own personal opinions and like all of us, you are welcome to share those personal opinions.
Unfortunately, there does come a point where sharing your personal opinions might become a matter brought before the College for evaluation in the context of professional misconduct.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, each Registrant is restricted to commenting only on health matters that are within the scope of practice of the profession. The College has a standard of practice relating to the Scope of Practice and that standard is clear that if a health condition is one that a naturopath cannot test for and treat, then it is outside of the scope and they should not discuss that with patients or post information or advertisements relating to them. The College has been clear from the start of the pandemic that COVID-19 is outside of the scope of practice of the profession.
This means, to be direct, that NDs in Ontario cannot have a professional opinion on COVID-19. This does not mean that as an individual you cannot have your own personal opinions and share them; however, I urge you to be careful not to use your position as an ND to do so.
As example, if I were to go on my Facebook page, which is open to all of the world to see, and if I were to be critical of government actions surrounding COVID-19, the separation from my professional life is very limited. It would not take a great deal for anyone in the public to link me back to my professional role as CEO of the College. My comments would therefore implicate the College and imply I may be speaking for the College. This would be worsened if I were to have used my professional title in my post.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, if you publish anything using your ND title, you are speaking as a regulated health professional, regardless of who may see that post. It is a form of promotion or advertising and is subject to the standards of the College. Even posting on your personal Facebook page, if it is public, carries the risk that your private name can be easily linked to your professional capacity.
If and when you decide to enter into public debates on any platform, think about:
- Is this something that the public will think I am speaking about as a regulated health professional?
- Is this something that I am qualified to speak about as a Naturopathic Doctor?
- Is this site open for the public and my patients to see or limited to my own personal connections?
- Is there a likelihood that my personal comments can be linked back to my professional life?
You are free to have personal opinions and to express those in any way you deem appropriate. You will want to ensure that those personal opinions cannot be confused to be professional opinions as an ND in areas in which you cannot practise.
Andrew Parr, CAE
Chief Executive Officer