New Sexual Misconduct Standard

In January 2020, we began an initiative to develop a new sexual misconduct standard for nurses. The goal of this initiative is to develop a standard that clearly and specifically defines the expectations for all nurses.

The standard will stand alone from the existing designation-specific standards of practice and code of ethics and will be used in conjunction with them and other regulatory guidelines.

We anticipate releasing the standard in June 2020.

Defining Sexual Misconduct

At this early stage of consultation and development, we have not yet determined the definition for sexual misconduct within the context of nursing.

However, we do know that sexual misconduct is conduct that is sexual in nature and generally involves power imbalance and people in positions of authority. In the context of nursing, this could include:

  • Conduct, behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature made by a nurse towards a current or former client or colleague that could cause offence, humiliation or otherwise negatively affect the recipient’s health and well-being.

Maintaining Public Safety

As a regulator, public safety is our top priority and we are responsible for responding to complaints and reports that may have caused harm to clients.  We have decided to develop the sexual misconduct standard:

  • To meet our mandate of public safety and help to prevent serious harm from occurring by having clearly defined expectations for nurses
  • To reflect the meaningful discussion within our communities and the public’s zero tolerance attitude about sexual misconduct
  • To empower the public, nurses and others to report sexual misconduct with the confidence in knowing that we take this matter very seriously

Sexual misconduct accounts for only 1% of all disciplinary decisions from the past 10 years. Although this number is small, we recognize that sexual misconduct results in great harm to clients and this standard is an added measure to continue upholding public safety.

Current Stage

We are currently in the early phase of developing the sexual misconduct standard.

At this time, we know that the standard will at minimum:

  • Apply to all nursing designations in Nova Scotia
  • Outline the practice expectations for all nurses
  • Include definitions of sexual misconduct and other important concepts, such as sexual abuse
  • Live as a document separate from each designation’s standards of practice but carry the same regulatory force as their standards and code of ethics

The specific components of the standard will be determined in the coming months based on feedback from stakeholders, best available evidence, supporting material from other health regulators in Canada and legal counsel.

Participate in the Conversation

It is vital that we hear from diverse voices in our communities to help inform the direction and development of the sexual misconduct standard.

To accomplish this, we are committed to providing open, accessible consultation opportunities and inviting the public, nurses, subject-matter-experts and other stakeholders to take part.

We encourage you to participate in the conversation through our two formal consultation opportunities:

February 13 to March 8: visit our website and complete a brief survey to help inform the development of the sexual misconduct standard.

April 9 to May 10: visit our website to review a copy of the draft standard and provide feedback to help inform the final regulatory document.

We will share each consultation opportunity in our newsletter, by email and on our website.


  • January 2020: Start of the initiative
  • February 13-March 8: Public consultation opportunity
  • April 9-May 10: Public consultation opportunity
  • June 2020: Anticipated release of the sexual misconduct standard for nurses
  • June onwards: Support and guidance to ensure the public, nurses and others are aware of and understand the sexual misconduct standard

If you have any questions, reach out to us at

Active Consultation 

There is now an active consultation available about this initiative. Click here to participate