Nursing, as is the case with several other professions, is self-regulated. In other words, nurses have the authority to govern themselves and to regulate their practice to protect the public interest. So, what happens if you’re a nurse facing allegations of professional misconduct?
Initiating An Investigation
An allegation of professional misconduct can be devastating. Not only is your professional reputation on the line but your personal life stands to be affected as well. You may be at risk of suspension, losing your professional license, having the misconduct recorded, or be subjected to a fine.
The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) sets standards of practice that help ensure that the profession is practiced ethically, safely, and effectively. If a complaint is made, or there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a nurse has acted in a way that is in violation professional standards, the College may launch an investigation to determine whether an act of professional misconduct has been committed.
As the subject of a complaint, there are several rights afforded to you including, knowing the details of the complaint being investigated, and having sufficient time to respond. You are entitled to legal representation and to be confident that the complaint is being investigated in an impartial manner.
What Is Professional Misconduct?
In Ontario, the definitions of professional misconduct can be found in the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA). Generally, the expectation is that nurses observe the standards of practice associated with carrying out their duties in a manner that is safe, responsible, and provides acceptable care to clients. Some examples of professional misconduct may include:
- Verbal, physical, or emotional abuse
- Misappropriating property from the workplace or a client
- Failure to keep records or obtain informed consent
- Practising the profession while impaired
- Breaching confidentiality
Once a complaint is received, it is processed and assigned to an impartial investigator tasked with reviewing the facts and submitting it for review.
Protecting Yourself Against Long-Term Damage
Given the seriousness of a professional misconduct allegation, it is critical to get help as soon as you discover that you are the subject of a complaint. An lawyer who has experience handling professional misconduct cases can work strategically to help protect your license, your professional reputation, and your career.