Complaints and Discipline Process
What is a Complaint?
A complaint is any written, signed report or allegation, regarding the conduct, competence or health of a nurse. Any person, including a nurse’s supervisor, a co-worker, another health care professional, or a member of the public such as a patient or family member, may make a complaint. Complaints lodged with the Association are usually of a very serious nature, such as substance abuse, physical and sexual abuse of patients, and incompetence.
Any nurse who has reason to believe that another nurse is unable to function safely to such an extent that the welfare of patients is jeopardized, is obligated to lodge a complaint with the Association. Employers who dismiss a nurse for reasons of incompetence or incapacity are obligated by law to report that nurse to the Association. In fact, failure to report is considered to be professional misconduct.
Mandatory Reporting on Sexual Abuse
Provincial legislation imposes a legal obligation on health care professionals, including nurses, to report incidents of sexual abuse. Health care professionals who have reason to believe that another health care professional has sexually abused a patient must report that person to their regulatory body within 21 days. Sexual abuse is defined in the Nurses Act (1984) as:
- sexual intercourse or other forms of physical sexual relations between the member and the patient,
- touching, of a sexual nature, of the patient by the member, or
- behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by the member towards the patient.
Lodging a Complaint
Lodging a complaint with the Association is usually a measure of last resort. In general, every attempt is made to deal with the problem at the agency or institutional level, prior to lodging a complaint. In many cases, complaints lodged by employers relate to problems originally identified by co-workers or patients.
If you wish to lodge a complaint, please contact NANB’s Regulatory Consultant: Professional Conduct Review for information on procedure and courses of action.
How Complaints are Handled
The mechanism for dealing with complaints is dictated by law under the Nurses Act. It is a two-step process:
- When a formal complaint is received, the nurse is notified immediately and given copies of the complaint and supporting documents. The nurse’s employer(s) is notified of the complaint and asked to submit relevant information. A meeting of the complaints committee is organized (three-member panel consisting of two nurses and one public member) to decide whether the complaint should be dismissed or referred to the discipline or review committees for further consideration.
- The review (health-related issues) and discipline (other issues) committees schedule a hearing (four-member panel consisting of three nurses and one public member) to consider the complaint. Both the nurse and complainant may attend this hearing and the committee will receive testimony on the issue. Once all the evidence is received, the hearing concludes and the committee deliberates. The committee assesses credibility of the witnesses, weighs the evidence, determines the facts, and considers what are the accepted nursing standards in the situation. If the committee decides that the facts prove the allegations, it then considers the appropriate orders or remedies to be made concerning the nurse.
For more information on the Complaints and Discipline Process, please contact the Regulatory Consultant: Professional Conduct Review.