All regulated healthcare professionals and regulatory colleges across the province have an obligation to uphold a zero-tolerance philosophy related to the sexual abuse of patients. As regulated healthcare professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have obligations to maintain appropriate boundaries with their patients and ensure that their behaviour aligns with legislative obligations.
To further clarify legislative requirements of registrants, the College has published a Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse Policy articulating the College’s expectations for abiding by legislation forbidding sexual abuse of a patient.
The Boundary Violations and Sexual Abuse Policy supports existing obligations of registrants under the Health Professions Procedural Code (Schedule 2 of the Regulated Health Professions Act), the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.
Defining Boundaries and Boundary Violations
As outlined in the policy, boundaries define the limit of a safe and effective professional relationship between a registrant and a patient. Boundaries are based on trust, respect, and the appropriate use of power.
Boundary violations occur when a registrant does not establish or maintain the boundaries of a professional relationship with their patient or abuses their power. A boundary violation is the point at which a relationship changes from professional and clinical to unprofessional and inappropriate. Boundary violations exploit the power imbalance inherent in the registrant-patient relationship and may be sexual or non-sexual in nature.
In the registrant-patient relationship, registrants hold a position of power and influence by virtue of having:
- Professional knowledge and skills patients rely on for their well-being;
- Access to pharmaceuticals and devices patients rely on to manage their health;
- Access to patient’s personal health information; and
- A position of authority in relation to patients’ pharmaceutical needs.
Because of the power imbalance that exists between registrants and their patients, any sexual or romantic relationship a registrant has with a patient is considered an act of professional misconduct and possibly sexual abuse of a patient.
All healthcare professionals governed by the Regulated Health Professions Act—including pharmacy professionals—are required to file a report with the College if, in the course of practising their profession, they have reasonable grounds to believe that a registrant of any regulated health profession has sexually abused a patient.
The report must be made within 30 days; if a registrant has reasonable grounds to believe that there is a risk of continued sexual abuse of the patient, or that there will be sexual abuse of other patients, then the report must be made without delay.