In 2018 the Alberta Government introduced Bill 21: An Act to Protect Patients to amend the Health Professions Act (HPA) requiring all regulatory health colleges to mandate training requirements aiming to prevent and address sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by regulated health professionals.
What is sexual abuse and sexual misconduct?
The Health Professions Act (HPA) includes definitions for “patient”, “sexual abuse”, and “sexual misconduct”. These terms are defined in the Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) Standards of Practice.
As defined in the ACSW Standards of Practice S.A(1),
a. For the purposes of conduct described in the definition of “sexual abuse,“ a client is a patient in the following circumstances:
- when professional services are provided to the client by the social worker and there is a reasonable expectation that services will extend beyond a single encounter;
- when the professional relationship has been formed and has not ended; or
- when a social worker engages in conduct described in the definition of “sexual abuse“ with a former client within 1 year from the date the individual ceased to be the social worker’s client.
b. For the purposes of conduct described in the definition of “sexual misconduct”, a client is a patient in the following circumstances:
i. when professional services are or have been provided to a client or a former client by the social worker within the past year.
- sexual intercourse between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member;
- genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member;
- masturbation of a regulated member by, or in the presence of, a patient of that regulated member;
- masturbation of a regulated member’s patient by that regulated member;
- encouraging a regulated member’s patient to masturbate in the presence of that regulated member; and
- touching of a sexual nature of a patient’s genitals, anus, breasts, or buttocks by a regulated member
SEXUAL MISCONDUCT is defined in section 1(1)(nn.2) of the Health Professions Act for the purpose of addressing a complaint, and means any incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, behaviour, or remarks of a sexual nature by a regulated member towards a patient that the regulated member knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to the patient or adversely affect the patient’s health and well-being but does not include sexual abuse.
Standards of Practice
Every regulatory college is required to define who is a patient, for the purposes of that profession, in the standards of practice. The ACSW’s Standards of Practice can be found here.
Patient Relations Program
Every regulatory college is required to have a Patient Relations Program which is mandated to provide a counselling fund for patients who have alleged unprofessional conduct in the forms of sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct against a regulated member. The patient relations program also requires that all regulated health professionals complete mandatory training to prevent and address sexual abuse of and sexual misconduct towards patients by social workers.
The Alberta Federation of Regulated Health Professionals (AFRHP), with the support of Alberta Health, has developed online training programs for all regulated health professionals as well as for all college staff, council, and hearing tribunal members. Completion of the training program is mandatory for all currently registered social workers and those applying to become registered social workers.
The protection of Albertans from unprofessional conduct of social workers is of paramount importance to the ACSW. Participating in the mandatory training program and reviewing the standards of practice are important to raise awareness and provide education on the power imbalance between social workers and their clients and patients.
The “Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse and Misconduct” Training Program includes 3 modules, to be completed by all regulated members:
- Module 1: Introduction to An Act to Protect Patients
- Module 2: Preventing Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct
- Module 3: When Sexual Abuse or Sexual Misconduct has Occurred
You can access the 1.5 hour on-demand training here: http://afrhp.org/bill21-protecting-patients/#/
*The Google Chrome web browser is recommended
The “Trauma Informed Training for Regulatory Organizations” Training Program consists of 5 modules, to be completed by council and hearing tribunal members:
- Module 1: Introduction to An Act to Protect Patients
- Module 2: Receiving and Investigating Complaints
- Module 3: Adjudicating Complaints of Sexual Abuse/Sexual Misconduct
- Module 4: Assessing Credibility
- Module 5: Sanctions
Access to the 4 hour on-demand training is provided by ACSW to those required to complete it.
Q. How long does the training program take to complete?
A. The training will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete and it is recommended that the training program is completed in an uninterrupted single session. The platform does not track individual progress; leaving while still in the progress may result in having to start again from the beginning.
Q. Can I use any device to complete the training?
A. You can use which ever device you are most comfortable with however, it is important to note that it is recommended that the training is completed using the web browser Google Chrome. Other browsers have had reported issues navigating the program.
Q. Is there anything else I should know before I begin?
A. Yes, ensure that you have enabled pop-ups, this will be critical once you have completed your training as you will be invited to submit your name for the certificate in a pop-up window.
Navigating the program:
Q. I am unable to click inside the question check box, what should I do?
A. If you are experiencing trouble clicking through the interactive sections, try to click your responses elsewhere in the box as the implied location might not respond as you expect. It is recommended that this training program is completed with the Google Chrome web browser.
Certificate of Completion:
Q. Will I receive a certificate of completion for this training program?
A. Yes, in fact you are required to submit the certificate to demonstrate that you have completed the mandatory training through your member portal. Specific instructions are detailed below.
Q. How do I receive a copy of my certificate of completion?
A. After you have completed the training program, a pop-up window will invite you to submit your name to be printed on the certificate. The certificate can be printed to paper or saved as a digital PDF file. Please note: you must print or save the certificate before closing the training session. Failure to do so will result in losing the certificate.
Q. How do I print my certificate of completion?
A. Generally, most computer browsers will allow users to right click on the screen or on an icon, possibly three small dots in the upper right hand corner of your screen, and choose 'Save As' or 'Print' and save as a PDF file or print as a PDF file to create a digital copy of the document to upload to your ACSW member portal.
To upload your certificate of completion:
First, login to your member portal on the website www.acsw.ab.ca, click on the Member Login button and enter your username and password to access your member portal. If you require your Username and Password or do not remember them, there is an option to retrieve a forgotten password.
Next, follow these steps:
Under the Action Menu
- Click on View/Edit My Profile
- Click on the Additional Tab
- Scroll down to Document Upload and click on Add New button
- Choose your correct application type (e.g. Application New Graduates )
- Choose the document type from the drop-down list Mandatory Training - Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Certificate
- Click on Upload here to upload the certificate saved as a PDF file on your device
- Enter the current date for the date uploaded
• ACSW Standards of Practice
• CASW Code of Ethics
• Health Professions Act
• ACSW Patient Relations Program
• ACSW Discipline Records
• Public Registry: Find-a-Social Worker