More on the Complaints Committee Process

After an investigation, we may determine that the complaint should be referred to the Complaints Committee for further review and action. 

Understanding the Process

The Complaints Committee is made up of public members and nurses. When a complaint is referred to the Complaints Committee, a panel of committee members, including at least one public member and one nurse who holds the same designation as the nurse named in the complaint, is selected to act as the Complaints Committee for that matter. Click here for more information about this committee

During this process, the committee carefully reviews all of the information gathered in the investigation and determines whether any additional investigation is required. For example, the committee may direct the investigator to conduct additional investigation or compel individuals to appear before them to give evidence and to produce documents. 

It is also important to know that in addition to the concerns under investigation, the committee may also investigate any other matters of potential concern that become apparent during the investigation. 

If you are a nurse named in a complaint, you may be required by the committee at any stage during the process to: 

  • Provide a written response or produce documents
  • Submit to physical or mental examinations by a qualified person 
  • Submit to a review or audit of your practice by a qualified person
  • Complete a competence assessment to determine whether you are competent to practise nursing. 

Dismissing a Complaint

The Complaints Committee will consider whether the complaint should be dismissed. They may dismiss a complaint because:

  • The complaint is not within our jurisdiction
  • Information obtained during the investigation does not substantiate the allegations in the complaint
  • The complaint is frivolous, vexatious or constitutes an abuse of process 
  • 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 

Opportunity to Appear before the Committee

If the complaint is not dismissed at this stage, the Complaints Committee will provide the nurse named in the complaint with an opportunity appear before the committee. The nurse has the right to be represented by legal counsel, a union representative or another representative at their own cost. The committee might also invite others who are relevant to the concerns under investigation to appear as well. Complaint Committee meetings are not open to the public and only those invited to attend are permitted. 

Outcomes & Next Steps

Possible Outcomes

When the Complaints Committee concludes its work, it has several options available to address the complaint, including: 

  • 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. This outcome could also include authorization for the nurse to resign. A nurse cannot resign without authorization from NSCN. 
  • Issue a caution to nurse: A caution is issued when the Committee determines that the nurse may have breached the standards of professional ethics or practice expected but in a manner that does not constitute professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming, incompetence or incapacity. A caution is not a disciplinary finding. 
  • Issue a reprimand with the consent of the nurse: this option constitutes a licensing sanction. The Complaints Committee may only issue a reprimand if the nurse consents. A reprimand becomes part of the nurse’s permanent record at NSCN.
  • Impose conditions or restrictions on the nurse’s licence or registration with the consent of the nurse: this option also constitutes a licensing sanction. The Complaints Committee may only impose conditions or restrictions if the nurse consents. Conditions/restrictions become part of the nurse’s permanent record at NSCN, but are removed from the nurse’s current registration or licensure status when they are completed or lifted by a committee order. 
  • Refer to the Fitness to Practice Committee:  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 for more information on this process.
  • Refer to the Professional Conduct Committee: The Professional Conduct Committee may either approve a settlement agreement or conducts a formal hearing into the issues referred to it by the Complaints Committee. Click here for more information on this process.
  • Dismiss the complaint: for the same reasons noted above.  

If the outcome includes an informal resolution, reprimand, conditions or restrictions, the nurse may also be asked to pay certain costs incurred by us and associated with the complaint, such as expenses incurred in investigating the matter and reaching a decision, legal fees, and other expenses. At this stage, a nurse is not required to pay costs unless they consent. 

What do you mean by professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming, incapacity and incompetence?

We have the authority to consider complaints about professional misconduct, conduct unbecoming the profession, incapacity and incompetence. These terms are briefly described below, but the Nursing Act sets out their precise definitions.   

  • Professional misconduct – conduct or acts relevant to the practice of the nursing that, having regard to all the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional, including breaching the standards of practice or code of ethics, abuse, misappropriation of property, patient abandonment, and fraud. Additional details and types of misconduct are included in the Nursing Act. 
  • Conduct unbecoming the profession – conduct in a nurse’s personal or private capacity that tends to bring discredit on nurses or the nursing profession 
  • Incapacity –  a medical, physical, mental or emotional condition, disorder or addiction that renders or rendered a nurse unable to practise with competence or that could endangered the health and safety of clients
  • Incompetence – a lack of competence in a nurse’s care of a client or delivery of nursing services that, having regard to all of the circumstances, made it unsafe for a nurse to practice, or to continue in practice without remedial assistance

What do you mean by a ‘condition’ or a ‘restriction’?

Conditions require the nurse to complete certain actions, such as requiring a nurse to complete an education course. 

A restriction restricts the nurse’s licence or registration in some form for as long as the restriction remains on the nurse’s licence, such as restricting a nurse from practising in an emergency room.

How Will I Be Notified about the Committee’s Decision?

When the Complaints Committee makes a decision, they will issue a written decision explaining the reasons for the outcome(s). The Complaints Committee then directs us to send a copy of the decision to the nurse named in the complaint, and either a summary or a copy of the decision to the person who made the complaint. 

The committee’s decision is typically confidential, except that:

  • The committee may direct that others as determined by the committee should receive a copy the decision, a summary of the decision, or portions of the decision. 
  • If a licensing sanction is issued with the consent of the nurse, certain information is published based on what is required by our Nursing Act and regulations. This typically includes the type of licensing sanction issued and a summary of the decision. Click here for a full list of published summaries and decisions. 

Is the Committee’s Decision Final?

Yes. The Complaints Committee’s decision is final and there is no review or appeal process available within NSCN.  You may want to seek legal advice for information on any potential options external to NSCN.

If you have any questions, reach out to us at conduct@nscn.ca.   


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.