A registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner (NP) is in a position of power over a patient by virtue of having professional knowledge and skill that a patient must rely on for their well-being. In addition, they have access to patients' personal health information.
RNs and NPs must always maintain professional boundaries with their patients. They are prohibited from engaging in any form of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with a patient as defined by law in the Health Professions Act.
Sexual abuse is defined in the Health Professions Act as “the threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a regulated member towards a patient that is of a sexual nature and includes any of the following conduct:
The touching by a RN or NP of sensitive parts of a patient’s body for a valid medical purpose with the informed consent of the patient does not constitute sexual abuse.
Sexual misconduct is defined in the Health Professions Act as “any incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by a regulated member towards a patient that the regulated member knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to the patient or adversely affect the patient’s health and well-being but does not include sexual abuse.”
CARNA’s Protection of Patients from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct Standards defines a “patient” within the context of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct and outlines expectations for the RN/NP in the therapeutic and professional relationship including rules around sexual relationships with former patients.
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual abuse or sexual misconduct can be very difficult. If you call CARNA for assistance or to make a complaint, you will speak to a member of our conduct department who has training in the area of sexual abuse and is very familiar with CARNA’s complaint process. We take all complaints, including those of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct, with the utmost seriousness.
You can seek information or make a complaint by calling 780.452.3276 / 1.800.252.9392 and asking to speak to someone in the complaints department. Learn more about the complaint process.
Complaints of a sexual nature may involve:
Note: If the health-care provider is not a member of a regulated profession, they are not subject to the authority of any regulatory college. Should you have a complaint or concern about their conduct or the care they provided, please contact the employer of the unregulated provider and/or the police.
Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter can be incredibly difficult and there are many reasons why a patient may choose not to do so. There are, however, good reasons for reporting:
CARNA has established a patient relations program to support patients who come forward with complaints of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct with funding for therapy or counselling. The program also ensures that registered and nurse practitioners receive training to prevent and address sexual abuse and sexual misconduct.
There are a variety of situations in which patients may be eligible for funding for counselling or therapy. In fact, filing a complaint with CARNA alleging sexual abuse of a patient is one of the eligibility criteria for receiving funding.
To learn more about funding for counselling or therapy, please contact CARNA’s conduct department at 780.452.3276 / 1.800.252.9392. If you are eligible, the conduct department will provide more information on how to access funding.
Patients may also wish to contact Health Link Alberta for current resources to support them.