After a Complaint is Made

Once we receive your completed complaint form or written document, we review it to make sure that all of the required information has been included.  If your complaint was made on behalf of someone else, we will also make sure you have appropriate authority to make the complaint.  

Once we are sure we have all the information we need to process the complaint, we will send you a letter acknowledging your complaint within 7 business days.  

What to Expect

After receiving your complaint, we will review it carefully to determine what action needs to be taken.  Possible outcomes include:

  • Informally resolve the complaint: Where it is in the interest of the public, a complaint can be resolved informally. When this is an option, important considerations include whether the nurse is willing to learn from and address the issues and the nature of their conduct. Informal resolutions allow for flexibility to create an outcome tailored to the unique circumstances of a complaint and can include a wide range of terms for the nurse, such as education, treatment, ongoing monitoring, developing reflective essays or any other appropriate term. 
  • Authorize the resignation of a nurse’s license: If the nurse would like to resign from NSCN, we may authorize their resignation where we determine it is appropriate. A nurse who has been named in a complaint cannot resign without our authorization.  
  • Investigate the complaint: If we require more information about a complaint, we may open an investigation, and appoint an investigator.  The role of the investigator is to gather information about the issues raised in the complaint.  The investigator may interview witnesses and compile documentation related to the complaint, such as health records. Click here to learn more about the investigative process.     
  • Refer the matter to the Fitness to Practise process: If it appears that the nurse has an incapacity, (medical, physical, mental, or emotional health condition, disorder or addiction that renders the nurse unable to practise with competence or may have endangered the health or safety of clients), we may refer to the Fitness to Practise process. Click here to learn more about this process.  
  • Dismiss the complaint: at times, we may decide not to take further action on a complaint.  In those circumstances, we provide a written decision outlining why the complaint is being dismissed, which we share with the person who made the complaint and the nurse named in the complaint. Some possible reasons for dismissing a complaint include:
    • The complaint is not within our jurisdiction
    • The information obtained during the investigation does not substantiate the allegations in the complaint
    • The complaint is frivolous, vexatious or constitutes an abuse of process 
    • The conduct or behaviour under investigation, even if shown to have occurred, does not appear to amount to a breach of the practice standards or code of ethics, and does not otherwise constitute professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming the profession, incompetence or incapacity  
    • Processing the complaint would not advance the objects of NSCN 

If a complaint is dismissed, the person who made the complaint has the right to request that the Complaints Committee review the decision. Click here for more information on the review process

Maintaining Public Safety 

When a complaint is received, and on an ongoing basis throughout the professional conduct process, we assess whether it is necessary to intervene in the nurse’s practice through interim action. 

Interim action may include asking the nurse who is named in the complaint to voluntarily agree to limitations on their practice or to agree not to practise pending further consideration of the complaint. We may also bring the matter to the Complaints Committee to consider issuing an interim order, which may be imposed at any stage of the investigation process, including prior to the beginning of a full investigation, or at the end of the Complaints Committee process. The order may prevent the nurse from practising or place limits on their practice. Click here for more information on the Complaints Committee process

It’s important to note that interim action is an exceptional step which requires us to carefully and seriously consider all of the factors, such as the information received regarding the nurse’s alleged conduct, the likelihood that the nurse will engage in future conduct that will expose the public to harm, the degree of the potential risk, and the degree of intervention required to minimize the risk. 

Interim action is temporary and only remains in effect until there is a final decision or until the matter is otherwise re-considered by us or a committee. Interim action does not mean that the allegations made against the nurse have been proven and does not signify what the ultimate outcome will be. 

Timelines

We are committed to dealing with complaints quickly, although it usually takes time to complete a complaint. The amount of time depends on its complexity and on other factors. 

Some complaints are closed within one to three months.  However, if your complaint is complicated or if it raises serious professional conduct issues, it may take up to a year or longer to complete an investigation.

Privacy and Confidentiality Considerations

We take great care to ensure that complaint information is kept confidential.

If you make a complaint, it is important to know that we must provide the nurse named in the complaint with a copy of the complaint and we may be required to share information we obtain in the course of the investigation.

The professional conduct process is confidential and all people who obtain information through this process, such as our staff, people who make complaints, nurse(s) named in complaints, witnesses and committee members, are required by law to keep that information confidential unless the Nursing Act specifically permits otherwise. Some examples of limited circumstances where disclosing information is permitted include: 

  • Disclosure to your own legal counsel
  • In the case of a nurse named in a complaint, disclosure to their legal counsel, union or other representative 
  • In the case of another participant in the professional conduct process, disclosure to our legal counsel, a union representative or other representative for the nurse named in the complaint
  • Disclosure where the information is otherwise publicly available
  • Disclosure as may otherwise be required by law

In addition, where we determine that it is necessary as part of the professional conduct process, we may disclose information we receive to witnesses or NSCN representatives (such as employees, agents and committee members) in the course of the investigation and resolution of a complaint. We communicate the legal requirement for confidentiality to everyone involved in the investigation of a complaint and all documentation gathered in the course of an investigation is treated securely.

It is also important to know that in certain circumstances, publishing some information may be required or permitted by the Nursing Act and/or Regulations. Publication typically only occurs in matters involving serious allegations or discipline and most complaints are resolved without publication. Click here to learn more about what is published on our website

Hearings before the Professional Conduct Committee are also typically open to the public. Click here for more information on the Professional Conduct Committee process

Please contact us directly at conduct@nscn.ca if you have any questions or for more information about how we maintain privacy and confidentiality during our conduct processes. 


As an organization, we uphold public trust by being accountable and transparent. One of the ways we do this is by sharing a general overview of our conduct processes in a way that everyone can understand. Due to the nature of this work however, these processes can be complex and there are ultimately a number of factors that determine the best course of action to promote the public interest. The material presented in this website is general information only, and is not legal advice. If there is any inconsistency between this information and the Nursing Act, regulations and bylaws, the legislation prevails. As a result, it is best to contact a member of our team, your legal counsel or a union representative to ensure you fully understand the information presented on our website and within the Nursing Act, regulations, and bylaws.