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On January 25, 2020, the Professional Conduct Committee accepted Ms. Shanks’ application for consent revocation. A summary of the Committee’s decision will be available shortly.
Decisions and Outcomes
January 25, 2021
SUMMARY OF APPLICATION FOR CONSENT REVOCATION
On the 25th day of January, 2020, the Professional Conduct Committee of the Nova Scotia College of Nursing (“NSCN” or “College”) accepted an Application for Consent Revocation from Catherine Shanks, RN, Registration # 29624. NSCN consented to the Application for Consent Revocation.
The Application was submitted in accordance with Section 106 of the Nursing Act.
Background and Overview
Catherine Shanks graduated from the Dalhousie School of Nursing in 1999. She was first licenced to practise in Nova Scotia that same year.
She commenced employment as a clinical nursing coordinator at an outpatient clinic in Nova Scotia in October 2016 (“Clinic 1”). She resigned her position at Clinic 1 in August 2016.
Ms. Shanks does not have a prior discipline history with NSCN.
This matter came to NSCN’s attention upon receipt of a self-report from Ms. Shanks indicating that she felt she breached her professional standards and acted inappropriately with a client of Clinic 1 for whom she had provided nursing services (“Client A”).
Ms. Shanks did not hold a licence to practise as a Registered Nurse at the time the Professional Conduct Committee considered the Application for Consent Revocation.
Details of Issues before the College
Ms. Shanks was the only nurse to provide care to Client A at Clinic 1 from 2015 to 2018. As a result of providing care, Ms. Shanks was aware of Client A’s various diagnoses and the extent of his vulnerabilities, which were significant.
In 2018, while Client A was still a client of Clinic 1, Ms. Shanks initiated communication with Client A via text message asking him to meet her outside of Clinic 1. Ms. Shanks entered into a personal relationship with Client A. Ms. Shanks asked Client A to transfer to a different outpatient clinic so that she could continue her employment at Clinic 1. The relationship quickly developed into an intimate sexual relationship. The relationship lasted for approximately one month.
Ms. Shanks accepted a loan from Client A in the amount of $1,000 during the course of the relationship.
Client A did not received care from Ms. Shanks after their intimate relationship began. However, Client A continued to receive treatment at Clinic 1 until he transferred to a different clinic approximately two weeks after their intimate relationship began.
In her Application for Consent Revocation, Ms. Shanks admitted the following allegations:
- Ms. Shanks engaged in professional misconduct and/or conduct unbecoming in or about July to September 2018 in that she:
- engaged in a sexual relationship with Client A, a client of an outpatient clinic for whom she had provided nursing services;
- failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries by engaging in a personal relationship with Client A, particulars of which included:
- meeting Client A socially outside of the workplace;
- exchanging texts with Client A for non-therapeutic reasons;
- attending Client A’s residence;
- going on trips with Client A; and
- discussing details of her personal life with Client A;
- exploited the professional relationship by accepting a financial loan from Client A; and
- placed her own self-interest above the interests and welfare of Client A by influencing Client A to transfer to a different outpatient clinic.
Position of Parties
NSCN sought the revocation of Ms. Shanks’ registration in this case. There were a number of aggravating factors including Client A’s vulnerability; Ms. Shanks’ awareness of this vulnerability; Ms. Shanks’ awareness that her conduct was inappropriate; and the adverse consequences of Ms. Shanks’ conduct on Client A.
NSCN views sexual misconduct with a client or a vulnerable former client as one of the most serious acts of professional misconduct in the nursing profession. NSCN requested that the Professional Conduct Committee strongly denounce such behaviour.
Ms. Shanks agreed to the revocation of her registration as a Registered Nurse.
Based on all of the above, both NSCN and Ms. Shanks agreed to the revocation of her registration and agreed that the public interest was served by proceeding with an Application for Consent Revocation instead of a formal hearing.
Pursuant to section 103 of the Nursing Act, Ms. Shanks is not permitted to seek reinstatement of her registration as a registered nurse in Nova Scotia for a period of at least two years following the date of the Professional Conduct Committee's decision.
In addition, Ms. Shanks agreed to pay $3,000 towards NSCN’s costs incurred in the investigation and processing of this matter.
The Application for Consent Revocation was presented to a panel of the NSCN’s Professional Conduct Committee for consideration. The Committee heard submissions from legal counsel for NSCN and legal counsel for Ms. Shanks. In reaching its decision to approve the Application for Consent Revocation, the panel noted the objects of the College are to serve and protect the public interest in the practice of the profession, to preserve the integrity of the profession, and to maintain the publics’ and registrants’ confidence in the ability of the College to regulate the profession. The Panel considered various aggravating and mitigating factor, in particular, the following:
- Ms. Shanks was the Clinical Nursing Coordinator at Clinic 1 and frequently provided direct care to Client A and was fully aware of Client A’s condition and circumstances;
- Client A was extremely vulnerable;
- Ms. Shanks initiated a personal relationship with Client A;
- Ms. Shanks exchanged personal text messages with Client A for non-therapeutic reasons;
- Ms. Shanks commenced a sexual relationship with Client A within a week after acknowledging in text messages that she knew what she was doing was wrong;
- Ms. Shanks interfered with Client A’s treatment when she asked him to leave Clinic 1 for a different clinic so they could pursue a relationship;
- Ms. Shanks went on a trip with Client A following which she sent him a concerning and inappropriate text message shaming him and focusing on her own interests;
- Ms. Shanks resumed a sexual relationship with Client A after he experienced a negative impact on his health and continued the relationship for a period of close to two weeks;
- Client A suffered further negative impacts on his health after the trip and further negative impacts on his health after the relationship ended;
- Ms. Shanks was concerned for her own interests and not for those of Client A;
- Ms. Shanks borrowed money from Client A;
- Ms. Shanks did not self-report until after Client A reported their relationship to her employer;
- It was common for Ms. Shanks to give out her number to anyone who needed it;
- Ms. Shanks engaged in a professional texting relationship with Client A prior to entering into a personal relationship;
- Ms. Shanks had been a nurse for approximately twenty years and should have been aware of standards of practice and ethics on professional boundaries;
- As an experienced nurse working in Clinic 1, Ms. Shanks should have had her guard up and not put herself in a position that could lead to a personal relationship.
- Ms. Shanks did not have a disciplinary history with the College;
- Ms. Shanks self-reported her conduct to the College;
- Ms. Shanks co-operated with the College throughout the complaint and investigation process and admitted to having a sexual relationship with Client A;
- Ms. Shanks acknowledged that she violated professional standards and admitted to sexual misconduct and/or conduct unbecoming;
- Ms. Shanks has not been employed since April 2020 and therefore it will result in her not being employed for close to three years by the time she is eligible to apply for reinstatement;
- The Application for Consent Revocation fulfills the mandate of the College and avoids a lengthy and costly formal hearing.
Based on these considerations, the panel accepted that revocation of Ms. Shanks registration was appropriate, and that the mitigating circumstances should permit her to be able to apply for reinstatement of her license and registration after a period of two years. Any conditions or terms and conditions of registration and licencing will be addressed if and when Ms. Shanks applies for reinstatement of her license and registration in Nova Scotia.
April 30, 2020
Following an investigation into the concerns regards Catherine Shanks’ conduct, a Complaints Committee of NSCN suspended Ms. Shanks’ ability to obtain a license under the authority of section 81 of the Nursing Act. This suspension remains in effect until it is lifted, superseded or annulled by the Complaints Committee or the Professional Conduct Committee as the case may be. The professional conduct process is ongoing.