When do Nurses have to Self-Report to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO)?

By Published On: March 23, 2021Categories: Nurses and the Law

In some circumstances, nurses have an obligation to report themselves to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO). The self-reporting obligation is a legal requirement provided for by the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA).

The self-reporting obligation should be taken seriously. Failure to self-report can result in a referral to the CNO’s discipline process.

The purpose of the self-reporting requirements contained in the RHPA is to bring information to the attention of the College that may warrant further investigation, and for certain information to be placed on the CNO’s public register, i.e., the “Find a Nurse” feature on the CNO’s website.

When do nurses have to self-report?

Nurses must file a written report with the CNO’s Registrar in the following scenarios:

  • The nurse has been found guilty of an offence in any jurisdiction[1], with the exception of speeding and parking tickets.
  • The nurse has been charged with an offence [2], including an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and other offences that could be relevant to practice.
  • A finding of professional negligence or malpractice has been made against the nurse[3].
  • A nurse must advise the CNO if they are a member of another body that governs a profession, and whether the other governing body has found the nurse guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence.[4]
  • The nurse is the subject of a current investigation, inquiry or proceeding for professional misconduct, incompetence or incapacity or any similar investigation or proceeding in relation to the practice of nursing or any other profession in any jurisdiction.

What information needs to be contained in the self-report?

Specific requirements about what information needs to be included in the self-report apply and are provided for by the RHPA. The requirements vary depending on the type of matter that is being reported.

If a nurse is reporting a finding of professional negligence or malpractice, for example, she or he must report the following:

(a) the name of the member filing the report;

(b) the nature of, and a description of the finding;

(c) the date that the finding was made against the member;

(d) the name and location of the court that made the finding against the member; and

(e) the status of any appeal initiated respecting the finding made against the member.

In circumstances where a nurse has been charged with an offence, she or he must report this to the CNO and include the following information in the self-report:

(a) the name of the member filing the report;

(b) the nature of, and a description of, the charge;

(c) the date the charge was laid against the member;

(d) the name and location of the court in which the charge was laid or in which the bail condition or restriction was imposed on or agreed to by the member;

(e) every bail condition imposed on the member as a result of the charge;

(f) any other restriction imposed on or agreed to by the member relating to the charge; and

(g) the status of any proceedings with respect to the charge.

Status changes relating to a previous report may need to be reported as well.

Self-reports must not contain any information that would violate a publication ban.

The CNO has a Self-Reporting Form available on its website, which prompts nurses as to the content to provide.

When should a Self-Report be made?

The RHPA requires that self-reports be made as soon as reasonably practicable.

What is the CNO’s process for dealing with Self-Reports?

The CNO’s typical process relating to self-reports involves a review of the report by the Executive Director (also referred to as the Registrar), who will make a risk assessment and a decision regarding the course of action for the College.

Will the CNO investigate a nurse after she or he makes a Self-Report?

CNO advises on its website that it does not investigate every self-report received from nurses. While there are many options available to the Executive Director that do not involve an investigation, where a matter is of a more serious nature, the nurse should assume that the College may investigate further.

Where the self-report contains sufficient information to provide the Registrar with reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the nurse has engaged in professional misconduct or is incompetent, the report may result in the formal appointment of an investigator. Concerns about the conduct or competence of the nurse are then referred to the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC).

What infomration will be posted on the CNO’s website?

Most types of information that comes to the CNO in the form of a self-report will result in the information being posted on the nurse’s profile on the CNO’s website. For details about the types of information that the CNO publishes on their members’ public profiles click here.

Not sure about your self-reporting obligations?

If you believe that you may be required to self-report but are not sure, the first step is to get informed. Some information is available on the CNO’s website, but the College may encourge nurses to overreport.

A lawyer is in a better position to ensure your rights are considered in the process. They can assist you with the process of self-reporting, including determining if the matter needs to be reported in the first place and, if so, what information must be provided to the CNO in the report.

In more serious matters it is advisable to consult with legal counsel as early as possible. Any information provided to the CNO about a nurse may be used against her or him. A lawyer will also be able to assist during any investigation that may result from the report.

Carina Lentsch is an Ontario health lawyer and an advocate for nurses. She helps RNs, RPNs, and NPs navigate CNO complaints, investigations, fitness-to-practice, registration, and discipline matters.

Carina writes about legal issues affecting nurses and other health professionals. Her articles are not legal advice.

If you need help with a situation you are facing, ,contact Carina directly for a consultation. To learn more about her law practice, ,click here. You can subscribe to Carina’s newsletter and follow her on ,Facebook for updates @aclhealthlaw.

[1] RHPA, s. 85.6.1
[2] RHPA, s. 85.6.4
[3] RHPA, s. 85.6.2
[4] RHPA, s. 85.6.3