One of the primary responsibilities of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta (CLPNA) is protecting the public from unethical, unskilled, and unsafe nursing practice. Legislation, Standards of Practice, Code of Ethics, and policies provide the framework that governs the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) profession, and therefore every LPN, in Alberta. Holding LPNs accountable to these standards is enforceable under the Health Professions Act (HPA). A breach may be considered unprofessional conduct and could result in disciplinary action. This is where the CLPNA’s complaint process begins.
Written complaints against LPNs submitted to the CLPNA are taken very seriously and are managed as outlined in s. 54 of the HPA. The complaint process can be complex and lengthy. The CLPNA ensures complaints are handled with procedural fairness and in a reasonable time frame.
Step One: Opening a Complaint
All complaints are opened in accordance with Part IV of the HPA. Complaints must be submitted in writing; anonymous complaints are not accepted. The person making the complaint (Complainant), the Investigated Member (LPN), and the Investigated Member’s employer (if not the Complainant), are contacted by the CLPNA to review the complaint letter and the complaint process within 30 days of the complaint’s receipt.
If warranted, the CLPNA may also take immediate action. This may include a condition or a suspension on the Investigated Member’s practice permit until disciplinary processes are concluded.
Step Two: Investigation
The CLPNA has the legal authority, under s. 63 of the HPA, to collect any information and relevant documents during an investigation. This may include personal information and medical documentation. The Complainant and/or Employer, the Investigated Member, and witnesses are interviewed by an appointed investigator.
To ensure public protection, the investigation’s scope may widen to include other conduct matters not presented in the initial complaint letter, but identified during the process.
The investigator does not make recommendations on complaint resolution.
Step Three: The Investigation Report
Following the investigation, a written report is submitted to the Complaints Director who analyzes it to determine the best path to resolve the complaint in the interest of the public.
Step Four: Resolving a Complaint
Before a resolution, the Complaints Director needs to determine whether there is evidence of “unprofessional conduct”. “Unprofessional conduct” is defined in s 1(1)(pp) of the HPA and includes any contravention of the CLPNA’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Step Five: Resolutions
When determining the best resolution, patient safety, public interest, and the reputation of the profession are also taken into consideration.
There are several ways in which the Complaints Director can resolve a complaint:
- Consent Resolution – With the consent of the Complaints Director, the Complainant and the Investigated Member attempt to resolve the complaint. Examples of a consent resolution could include an agreement and undertaking, mediation, or coaching.
- Referral to a Disciplinary Hearing – A Disciplinary Hearing is a formal, legal process used to resolve complaints.
- Dismissal – If the Complaints Director determines the complaint is trivial or vexatious, or if there is insufficient or no evidence of unprofessional conduct, the complaint is dismissed.
Step Six: Penalties
Once a resolution has been chosen, sanctions or penalties may be required to address the unprofessional conduct. Sanctions can range from education or fines/costs, to suspension or cancellation.