If you feel you have experienced sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by a member of the College, please contact the Complaints Director at 780.487.6130. Your concern will be handled in a supportive and respectful manner. The Complaints Director will assist you in exploring the complaints process.
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 wellbeing. 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 by law in the HPA with a patient.
Sexual Abuse as defined in the HPA 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;
- Touching of a sexual nature of a client’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks by a regulated member.”
Sexual Misconduct as defined in the HPA 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.”
Who is a patient?
Each college that regulates a health profession must define who constitutes a “patient” in their Standards of Practice. Our college has defined a patient as the following in our Standards of Practice:
A Patient is a person who has received medical diagnostic and/or therapeutic services administered by a regulated member of the College within the immediately preceding year except in the cases of an episodic care. A person receiving episodic care is considered a patient while they receive episodic care; however, they cease to be considered a patient upon its conclusion.
Note: If the healthcare provider is not a member of a regulated profession, they are not subject to the authority of any regulatory college. Should you have a complaint or concern about their conduct or the care they provided, please contact the employer of the unregulated provider and/or the police.
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual abuse or misconduct can be very difficult. If you believe your healthcare professional may have crossed a sexual boundary, we urge you to contact us at 780.487.6130 or submit a written complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints of a sexual nature may involve:
- Privacy and respect: This could include a health care 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 examination 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 health care professional and patient that would otherwise be considered consensual.
Coming forward about a sexually inappropriate encounter you’ve experienced with a health care 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 are often not isolated. By coming forward, you could help us act to ensure that what happened to you does not happen to someone else.
- Awareness: The regulatory body won’t know otherwise; we rely on individuals to make us aware when things aren’t right. We can only learn about sexual abuse from people who make complaints.
- Your own wellbeing: If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse by a health care professional, knowing that there is an investigation and potential consequences may play a role in your healing process.
If you believe your healthcare professional may have crossed a sexual boundary, we urge you to contact us at 780.487.6130 or submit a written complaint to email@example.com.
View the Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct flowchart
Members of the College are required to do the following relating to the prevention of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct towards patients:
- Review the College’s Standards of Practice.
- Declare at the time of annual renewal of their registration to practice the profession in Alberta that they have reviewed the Standards of Practice Standard 5.0: Protection of Patients from Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct.
- Complete the Regulations Education Module (REM), which ensures that they have received training and understand the relevant legislation, regulations, standards and the restricted activities that they are authorized to perform prior to becoming regulated members.
Members are also encouraged to complete the online course, Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse and Misconduct, that has been prepared by The Alberta Federation of Regulated Health Professions (AFRHP). The AFRHP is a group of 29 health regulatory Colleges that work together to fulfill the same mandate – “to regulate our respective professions in the public interest.” The AFRHP prepared this course to help regulated health professionals understand and comply with Bill 21 An Act to Protect Patients.
[Content note: This course includes scenarios that depict sexual abuse and misconduct. Resources are available to help you access information and support.]
Access the Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse and Misconduct course
College staff also receive education and training on preventing and addressing sexual abuse and sexual misconduct towards patients. Training is provided to all new staff within 3 to 6 months of commencement, and existing staff receive refresher training every 5 years.
Council members and Hearing Tribunal/Complaint Review Committee members receive training when first elected/appointed, and additional training when selected to sit on a tribunal/appeal panel. Their training includes information regarding trauma-informed care and sexual violence.
Patient Relations Program
Under the HPA, the College must have a Patient Relations Program that includes measures for preventing and addressing sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by members towards their patients. The Patient Relations Program also provides funding for treatment or counselling to patients who are the victims of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct by a member of the College.