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We understand that the circumstances surrounding an issue of concern or complaint can result in challenging times and that you may have questions about what do and what our role might be. Often times, individuals may contact us about an issue not knowing the best course of action to take. Our job is to determine if there is a need for us to become involved or if another option would be more appropriate for you. We encourage you to contact one of our Professional Conduct Consultants who are available to support you and provide you with helpful information.


What happens when a formal complaint is received?

When we receive a formal complaint, the CEO and Registrar will direct the information to Professional Conduct Services, who will determine if the complaint should be investigated. If the decision is made to investigate the complaint, you will be notified in writing and provided with the name of the investigator responsible for the investigation.

If a decision is made not to investigate the complaint, you will be notified in writing along with the reasons an investigation will not be conducted. Some common reasons for not initiating an investigation include:

  • the complaint is against someone who is not an RN or an NP
  • the complaint is about the service provided by a health care facility or is a labour and employment matter
  • the complaint is about conduct or behaviours that are not considered a breach of the standards of practice or code of ethics
  • the nurse agrees to resign their licence to practice nursing
  • the nurse, CRNNS and you believe the matter can be informally resolved without the need for an investigation

Professional Conduct Services may also decide to refer to the complaint to the Fitness to Practice process if it concerns a serious health issue about the nurse.

Sometimes the decision not to investigate means the complaint is dismissed. If your complaint is dismissed at this stage, you may ask to have the dismissal reviewed by a Complaints Committee. Information on how request a review will be provided to you if your complaint is dismissed.

How do we investigate a complaint?

If the decision is made to investigate the complaint, you will be notified in writing and informed of the name of the investigator responsible for the investigation. The investigator will arrange interviews with you and any other witnesses who may have knowledge about the complaint and gather documentation relevant to the case.

We also send a letter to the nurse involved to let her/him know that we have received a complaint against them and that we will be investigating the allegations. The nurse will be provided an opportunity to provide a response to the allegations and the information gathered during the investigation.

The length of the investigation for each complaint is determined by a number of factors. These include the risk presented by the allegations and whether the nurse is currently practicing or not. In the most serious of cases, we will consider whether we should impose limitations on the nurse’s licence or remove them from practice during the investigation.

Investigation Outcomes and Decisions

Once an investigation is completed, Professional Conduct Services will determine whether the complaint should be sent to a Complaints Committee for review and further action. If a decision is made to send the complaint to the Complaints Committee, you will be informed in writing.

If a decision is made not to send the complaint to the Complaints Committee, you will be notified in writing along with the reasons for the decision. Some common reasons for not sending a complaint to the Complaints Committee include:

  • the information obtained during the investigation does not substantiate the allegations contained in the letter of complaint
  • the conduct or behaviour under investigation, even if shown to have occurred, does not amount to a breach of the practice standards or code of ethics
  • the nurse agrees to resign her/his licence to practice nursing
  • the nurse, CRNNS and you believe the matter can be informally resolved without the need to forward the complaint to the Complaints Committee

Professional Conduct Services may also refer the complaint to the Fitness to Practice process if the complaint concerns a serious health issue about the nurse.

Sometimes the decision not to send the complaint to the Complaints Committee means the complaint is dismissed. If your complaint is dismissed at this stage, you may ask to have the dismissal reviewed by a Complaints Committee. Information on how request a review will be provided to you if your complaint is dismissed.

All documentation gathered in the course of an investigation is private and treated securely and we communicate our confidentiality expectations to all parties involved.

Interim Orders

Interim orders may be imposed by the Complaints Committee at any stage of the investigation process, including prior to the beginning of a full investigation. The order may prevent the member from practising (interim suspension) or place limits on their practice (interim conditions or restrictions).

These orders are called “interim” because they are temporary, and they only remain in effect until there is a final decision in the matter or until the matter is otherwise reconsidered by a Committee.

The Complaints Committee may impose an interim order where it is in the public interest to do so, considering such factors as the nature of the allegations against the member and the degree of potential risk to the public if the member continued to practise unrestricted during the professional conduct process.

Interim orders do not represent a final disposition in the matter and the imposition of an interim order does not mean that the allegations made against the member have been proven.

Informal Resolutions

A complaint can be resolved any time prior to a Complaints Committee meeting if, in the opinion of CRNNS, the resolution meets objectives of CRNNS to ensure the best interests of the public are being met, integrity in the profession and maintain public confidence in the ability of the profession to regulate itself. Generally, informal resolutions are used for less serious complaints where public safety is not an issue.

In an informal resolution, the nurse has agreed that their practise or behaviour did not meet standards and they are willing to engage in further actions to rectify the deficiencies in their practice.

The informal resolution can be proposed by either the person who filed the complaint, CRNNS or the nurse under investigation, although the outcome must be agreed upon by all three parties. It is not a licensing sanction (what we used to call discipline) and there is no public notification of the resolution.

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