Coronavirus (COVID-19)

2 March 2020

About Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In December 2019, a coronavirus emerged in the city of Wuhan, China. Since then, this respiratory virus has been reported in multiple countries, including Canada. On Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a public health emergency of international concern. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic because of the alarming levels of spread and severity.

Those with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms of the virus range from mild to severe and may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. They can include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pneumonia and kidney failure. In severe cases, infection can lead to death.

To learn more about the virus, visit the WHO’s info page and the government of Canada's FAQ page

NANB’s Role

NANB’s mandate is regulation for safe, competent, and ethical nursing care—but patient safety is a responsibility we all share. Our role during the novel coronavirus outbreak is to support your ability to provide safe and competent care and help you understand your accountabilities.

If you have questions about your accountabilities when caring for patients affected with the new coronavirus, please contact us. One of our Nurse Consultants can help identify the appropriate standards and guidelines to guide your decision-making and help you understand your accountabilities.

Nurse Practitioners are encouraged to visit the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Public Health) Coronavirus page for information.

Emergency Temporary Registration

Visit the Registration Information page for information on emergency temporary registration for former nurses or nurse practitioners, and nurses registered in other provinces who wish to assist with the pandemic response.

Impact of COVID-19 on application and exam process

Updated information for applicants and students can be found on the Registration Information page.

FAQs for RNs and NPs

What are my accountabilities when providing care to a client diagnosed with (or suspected of having) the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

You are accountable for making decisions that are in the best interests of your clients and for protecting them from harm. You are also accountable for protecting clients from infection risks. You can do this by:

  • applying hand hygiene principles
  • choosing appropriate measures to prevent and control infection transmission such as wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • understanding your workplace’s organizational policies about infection prevention and control
  • participating in any training or education sessions on infection prevention and control
  • consulting NANB’s Infection Prevention and Control Fact Sheet
  • working with your employer to develop new policies as needed
  • using sources of evidence to inform your practice (consult “Important Resources” section a little further on this page)

We encourage you to work collaboratively with your employer to recognize real or potential threats, review relevant organizational policies, and if needed, develop policies and guidelines specific to your practice setting.

RNs and NPs are expected to understand and apply precautionary measures to minimize the risk of infecting themselves, colleagues, clients and others. To learn more about these topics, refer to the Government of New Brunswick Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Public Health).

Important Resources

Government of New Brunswick

MEMO from Chief Medical Officer of Health

Information related to COVID-19

General information


Self Monitor

Self Isolation

COVID-19 - Guidance for Community Settings

Government of Canada



The World Health Organization

International Council of Nurses

Can I refuse to work with an infected patient?

When your professional obligation to a client conflicts with your personal obligations, you have an accountability to demonstrate leadership and determine the best possible solution while still making decisions in the client’s best interest. Refusing assignments or choosing to discontinue care is an ethical dilemma without one clear answer.

Ultimately, you do have the right to refuse assignments that you believe will subject you or your clients to an unacceptable level of risk. But you also have a professional accountability to advocate for practice settings that minimize risk to both you and your clients. Advocating for quality practice settings is one of the many ways RNs and NPs are leaders in client care. 

Can I be accused of abandonment?

Abandonment occurs when an RN or an NP has engaged with a client or has accepted an assignment and then discontinues care without:

  • negotiating a mutually acceptable withdrawal of service with the client; or
  • arranging for suitable, or replacement services; or
  • allowing the employer a reasonable opportunity for alternative or replacement services to be provided.

For more information on abandonment, you can refer to Fact Sheet: Abandonment. RNs and NPs should review relevant organizational policies and guidelines related to staffing and workload. If needed, you should advocate for and develop policies and guidelines driven by patient interest and safety. You can also refer to this document: Practicing with Limited Resources: A Guide for RNs and NPs.

Your Accountabilities

RNs and NPs are accountable to legislation, the Code of Ethics, standards and employer policies. Here are a few key elements to keep in mind during the coronavirus outbreak:

Standards of Practice for RNs

RNs and NPs are accountable for:

  • practicing safely, competently, compassionately, and ethically and are accountable to the client, public, employer and profession
  • practising using evidence-informed knowledge, skill and judgement
  • contributing to and promoting measures that optimize positive client health outcomes at the individual, organizational and system level
  • establishing professional relationships and demonstrating leadership to deliver quality nursing and health care services

Standards for the Therapeutic Nurse-Client Relationship

RNs and NPs are accountable for:

  • using a wide range of effective communication strategies and interpersonal skills to appropriately establish, maintain and terminate the nurse-client relationship
  • ensuring that all professional behaviours and actions meet client’s therapeutic needs

Code of Ethics for RNs   

Historically and currently, nurses provide care to those in need, even when providing care puts their own health and life at risk. Nurses also encounter personal risk when providing care for those with a known or unknown communicable or infectious disease. However, disasters and communicable disease outbreaks call for extraordinary effort from all health-care personnel, including nurses. (p. 38)

The Code states: “During a natural or human-made disaster, including a communicable disease outbreak, nurses provide care using appropriate safety precautions in accordance with legislation, regulations and guidelines provided by government, regulatory bodies, employers, unions and professional associations (A9)”. (p. 38)

Nurses carefully consider their professional role, their duty to provide care and other competing obligations to their own health, to family and to friends. (p. 39)

For more information on Ethical Considerations for Nurses in a Natural or Human-Made Disaster, Communicable Disease Outbreak or Pandemic, please consult pages 38-40 of the Code of Ethics.

Fact Sheet: Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) 

RNs and NPs have the responsibility to ensure they practise safely and competently at all times, including the use of safe and effective IPC measures. To do so, RNs and NPs are expected to be aware of applicable legislation, NANB standards, best practices and organizational policies related to IPC and to advocate for quality practice environments.


The College of Nurses of Ontario granted permission to NANB to adapt content from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) section of their website: