Sexual Abuse & Misconduct

A healthcare professional 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.

Healthcare professionals must always maintain professional boundaries with their patients. They are prohibited from engaging in any form of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct as defined in the Health Professions Act (HPA).

Patient Relations Program: Understanding Sexual Abuse & Misconduct

Sexual Abuse means 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:

  • sexual intercourse between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member;
  • genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member;
  • masturbation of a regulated member by, or in the presence of, a patient of that regulated member;
  • masturbation of a regulated member’s patient by that regulated member;
  • encouraging a regulated member’s patient to masturbate in the presence of that regulated member; and
  • touching of a sexual nature of a client’s genitals, anus, breasts, or buttocks by a regulated member.

Sexual Misconduct means 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.

Each college that regulates a health profession must define who constitutes a “patient” in their standards of practice. For the purposes of the sexual abuse and sexual misconduct provisions in the HPA, the CLPNA considers an individual to be an LPN’s patient while receiving a professional nursing service provided by the LPN and for a minimum of one year from the last day professional nursing services were provided.

Did an LPN do something to make you feel uncomfortable? Maybe they touched you in a way that was not medically necessary or appropriate, or they said something sexually suggestive.

If you believe you have experienced sexual misconduct or sexual abuse by an LPN, we urge you to contact the CLPNA to discuss your concerns at 1-800-661-5877 (toll free in Alberta), 780-484-8886, email the CLPNA’s Complaints Department, or Make a Complaint.

Complaints of a sexual nature may involve:

  • Privacy and respect: This could include a healthcare professional not providing enough privacy while putting on a gown or getting dressed after an examination.
  • Inappropriate comments or gestures: This could include saying something sexually suggestive or seductive to you, commenting unnecessarily about sexual relationships or sexual orientation, making sexually insulting or offensive comments or jokes, or giving unwanted attention (like kissing).
  • Unnecessary or improper physical examinations: This could mean more frequent breast, genital, or pelvic examinations than would be considered medically necessary, touching without your permission or explanation, or conducting a physical examination in a sexual rather than a medical way.
  • Sexual contact or assault: This encompasses everything from inappropriate touching to sexual assault. It also includes any sexual contact between a healthcare professional and patient that would otherwise be considered consensual.

Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter you’ve experienced with a healthcare professional can be incredibly difficult, and there are many reasons why you may choose not to do so. There are, however, good reasons for reporting:

  • Public protection: Incidents of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct are often not isolated. By coming forward, you could help us act to ensure what happened to you does not happen to someone else.
  • Awareness: As a regulatory college, we rely on individuals to make us aware when things aren’t right. We can only learn about sexual abuse or sexual misconduct from people who make complaints.

When you call for assistance or to make a complaint to the CLPNA, you will speak to the Complaints Director or a Complaints Officer. The Complaints Director and Complaints Officers have specific training in dealing with sexual abuse or sexual misconduct complaints.

As part of the complaints process, an appointed investigator will ask you to explain what happened as clearly and in as much detail as you can possibly provide. All investigators have received trauma-informed training.

Legislation requires us to notify the healthcare professional of your complaint. We will provide the healthcare professional with a copy of the complaint. The healthcare professional is given the opportunity to respond to it.

Click here to learn more about the CLPNA’s complaints process.

Your complaint may be referred to a Hearing Tribunal for a hearing.

You may be asked to testify at the hearing, and you are encouraged to bring someone with you for support. If you must testify, you may be questioned by the legal representatives for the CLPNA, by the healthcare professional, or by the healthcare professional’s representative.

If the Hearing Tribunal finds the allegations of sexual abuse are proven, the healthcare professional’s registration will be cancelled, and they will not be allowed to practice for life. If the Hearing Tribunal finds allegations of sexual misconduct proven, the healthcare professional will be suspended, and timelines for the suspension imposed will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Click here to learn more about the CLPNA’s Hearings Process.

Counselling and Therapy

Counselling or therapy is available for patients filing a complaint with the CLPNA alleging sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by a Licensed Practical Nurse. Once your complaint is reviewed, a referral for counselling or therapy is made on your behalf by the Complaints Director. There is no requirement of a finding of unprofessional conduct before a patient is eligible to be referred.

For more information, please contact the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta at 1-800-661-5877 (toll free in Alberta), 780-484-8886, or Email the CLPNA’s Complaints Department.

Additional Resources

The Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services offers numerous resources and information about sexual assault services in Alberta.