The Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Audiologists (ACSLPA) regulates its members in the public interest. SLPs and audiologists in Alberta comply with regulatory requirements as enabled through the Health Professions Act (HPA) and the Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Profession Regulation. ACSLPA provides further direction through the Standards of Practice (SoP) and Code of Ethics.
About Professional Relationships and Boundaries
As a patient, you can expect your SLP or audiologist to maintain professional boundaries and relationships with you. SLPs and audiologists are in a position of power over patients because they have knowledge and skills that their patients rely on, and as a patient you are dependent on the services they provide. In addition, your SLP or audiologist has access to your personal and health information.
Your SLP or audiologist will treat you respectfully. They will ensure informed consent is obtained before they provide services. Where physical touching may be required during your appointment, your SLP or audiologist will let you know why and how they will touch you, give you the opportunity to ask questions and respect your decision to proceed or decline the physical touching. Your SLP or audiologist will take steps to ensure professional boundaries are maintained. This may include declining to meet with you socially (outside of your scheduled appointments), declining any “friend” requests on social media and ensuring their language is not offensive.
Act to Protect Patients
2018 marked the introduction of Bill 21 which is being referred to as the Act to Protect Patients. This bill is an amendment to the HPA. Bill 21 passed third and final reading in the assembly on November 8, 2018. There is a coming into force provision that specifies that several sections of Bill will come into force on April 1, 2018. The other amendments came into force when Bill 21 received Royal Assent on November 19, 2018.
On April 1, 2019, new definitions come into force that define patient, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct and sexual nature with mandatory processes by hearing tribunals when finding of sexual abuse or misconduct are made.
In addition, when a regulated member, acting in the regulated member’s capacity, has reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct of another regulated member of any college constitutes unprofessional conduct within sexual context, that member must report that conduct to the appropriate Complaints Director of the respective Colleges.
Along with new definitions and responsibilities there are also other provisions under construction which include rules within: a Patient Relations Program; Discipline; registration; hearing tribunals; website information; responsibilities of the complaints director; the disclosure of information to the public.
Additional Standards of Practice to Protect Patients
As part of Bill 21, ACSLPA, like all other professional colleges, is expected to develop additional SoP related to the conduct of its regulated members.
The new SoP will include when it is appropriate and inappropriate for regulated members to enter into sexual relationships as it relates to the definition of “patient”.
The New SoP is subject to approval by the Health Minister. ACSLPA is well into the drafting and member consultation process in readiness for the Minister’s endorsement. The New SoP will be made available once this process is completed.
Current ACSLPA Standards of Practice
Apart from Bill 21, ACSLPA has always maintained SoPs related to professional relations and boundaries which are also interconnected with the Code of Ethics.
Standard 3.3, Professional Boundaries, states that “a regulated member of ACSLPA acts with integrity and maintains appropriate professional boundaries with clients, professional colleagues, students and others at all times”.
The indicators that demonstrate the behavior in order to meet the standard include:
- an understanding of the distinction between professional and nonprofessional relationships, the elements of power and trust and the situations when professional boundaries could be compromised (e.g., treatment of family members, friends).
- respect and responsible behavior to clients and colleagues at all times including avoiding sexually suggestive comments/actions or the expression of opinions/ remarks that could violate professional boundaries.
- exercising additional care to ensure that informed consent is obtained for procedures that clients could misinterpret (e.g., touching and physical closeness).
- terminating the professional relationship if boundaries cannot be established or maintained, transferring care as necessary.
- protecting the integrity of his/her profession by being responsible and accountable for his/her actions at all times (including personal interactions and the use of social media).
The expected outcome by ACSLPA has always been that clients and colleagues can expect that their relationships with the regulated members are respectful and that professional boundaries are maintained.
Each regulated member of ACSLPA is accountable for practicing in accordance with all our SoPs, regardless of role, practice area or practice setting. Practicing in breach of the Standards of Practice or Code of Ethics may constitute unprofessional conduct.