Over 200 LPNs or about 1% of the CLPNA’s membership experienced a formal complaint of unprofessional conduct in 2018. With so few experiencing these allegations, many may wonder about the disciplinary process. What is a complaint, and who can make one? What standards are LPNs held to? And what’s the responsibility of the CLPNA in the process?
STANDARDS & DUTY
Licensed Practical Nurses in Alberta are obligated to provide safe, competent, and ethical professional services. The Standards of Practice for Licensed Practical Nurses in Canada is the benchmark by which the minimum standard for LPN performance is measured. The Standards itemize expectations in professional accountability and responsibility; knowledge-based practice; service to the public and self-regulation; and ethical practice.
LPNs are recognized in the Health Professions Act (HPA) to be professional nurses who do work within their own scope of practice, standards of practice and code of ethics and work ‘autonomously’. This means LPNs take full responsibility for their own actions, including their errors, and must ensure their practice is consistent with all legislation applicable to the profession.
PROTECTING THE PUBLIC
When an LPN’s practice falls below the standards, it may be brought to the attention of the CLPNA. This is a complaint. Common complaints include (but are not limited to) nursing practice and competency concerns such as medication administration errors; lack of documentation; lack of skill, knowledge, or clinical judgment; or sexual misconduct.
It is CLPNA’s responsibility to manage complaints for public protection and hold an LPN to the expected competencies, standards and ethics expected. The Health Professions Act (HPA), Part 4, Professional Conduct, provides the legal authority and defines and outlines the complaint process followed by CLPNA. The Standards of Practice is used as a reference in reviewing complaints against LPNs.
Complaints can be made by employers, patients, co-workers, the public, or organizations such as Protection for Persons in Care.
All employers in Alberta have the legal responsibility to report an LPN’s unprofessional conduct to CLPNA, and these comprise the majority of complaints received. This mandatory reporting is required when an employer believes the conduct is unprofessional, or if the LPN is terminated or suspended, and may occur if a LPN resigns.
Additionally, all LPNs have the professional obligation to report any unsafe practices, abusive behaviours, incapacity concerns, or any other unprofessional conduct which could be considered below the Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics, the HPA and other relevant legislation.
While stressful for those involved, resolving complaints provides the LPN an opportunity to enhance their practice, correct a wrong, and ensure the error does not occur again. It can also be a guide to develop a better understanding and knowledge of what is actually important while providing professional care.