Nurses & Nursing Students

Frequently Asked Questions
  • I am in Nursing School and am concerned about being expected to observe forced non-therapeutic genital cutting of male infants. As a Student Nurse, do I have the right do decline?

Yes, you have the right to decline to observe. In Canada, the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses is also applicable to student nurses. The Code states:

“Ideally, the nurse would be able to anticipate practices and procedures that would create a conflict with his or her conscience (beliefs and values) in advance. In this case, the nurse should discuss with supervisors, employers or, when the nurse is self-employed, persons receiving care what types of care she or he finds contrary to his or her own beliefs and values (e.g., caring for individuals having an abortion, male circumcision, blood transfusion, organ transplantation) and request that his or her objections be accommodated, unless it is an emergency situation.”


  • I am a Nurse working in or planning on working in a Perinatal Unit that performs forced non-therapeutic genital cutting of male infants. What are my rights and responsibilities?

From the CNA Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses:

Ethical (or moral) distress arises in situations where nurses know or believe they know the right thing to do, but for various reasons (including fear or circumstances beyond their control) do not or cannot take the right action or prevent a particular harm. When values and commitments are compromised in this way, nurses’ identity and integrity as moral agents are affected and they feel moral distress.

Ethical (or moral) courage is exercised when a nurse stands firm on a point of moral principle or a particular decision about something in the face of overwhelming fear or threat to himself or herself.”

Registered nurses in Canada have the right to act as Conscientious Objectors in the case of forced genital cutting. Note that nurses have a moral responsibility to advise their potential employer if they are Conscientious Objectors to certain practices that are likely to take place during the course of their employment. This discussion should include a conversation regarding what workplace policy is in place to provide guidance and support for Conscientious Objectors to be exempt from certain practices without being penalized. Nurses may also call on their Union Stewards to be present at meetings with their employer to ensure their rights are protected.


  • I have assisted in forced non-therapeutic genital cutting of male infants in the past and require support to work through negative feelings surrounding this. How do I find an appropriate therapist / support group?

If you currently receive medical benefits through your employer, contact your Employee & Family Assistance Program for information on what counselling services are covered under your benefits plan. Consider getting a referral from your Family Physician or Nurse Practitioner. Counsellors and/or therapy group leaders who are experienced in assisting individuals with PTSD are recommended.



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