Major Penalty for Nurse Re: Improper Pain Meds Charting, Etc.

By: Joel Fairbrother

Published: 21 July 2021

Nurse standing with a man and woman discussing medical issues

CLPNA v Rebecca Beaulieu (#26233) (June 24, 2021) is a recent disciplinary decision by the hearings tribunal of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta concerning the obligations of nurses with respect to usage of pain medication, documentation of that usage / outcomes, and fitness to work.

The CLPNA had suspended Ms. Beaulieu’s permit on an interim basis for a period of over 3 years during the period that was after the allegations were made against Ms. Beaulieu but prior to the hearing.

As a result of this hearing, Ms. Beaulieu received a very severe punishment which included a suspension of her permit until completion of various assessments and courses, and payment of 50% of the investigation and hearing costs.  The 3-year interim suspension was treated as a “time served” suspension, so that no additional specific suspension period was imposed.


Most of the allegations against Ms. Beaulieu concerned a failure to document administration and disposal of certain narcotic medications on many occasions, and the failure to document the medication outcomes.  There were further allegations that Ms. Beaulieu had attended at work unfit to work (disoriented, exhausted and with slurred speech), had made further charting errors, and had tried to administer medication from the wrong medication cart.

Ms. Beaulieu was not in attendance at the hearing.

The hearings tribunal found that there was sufficient evidence from other witnesses (other nurses) and from the charts themselves to substantiate all of the allegations against Ms. Beaulieu.

Analysis / Conclusion

The documentation process is taken extremely seriously by the CLPNA for several reasons, including that it is the best way to ensure drugs are being administered appropriately and in the appropriate amounts, that they are working properly, and that they are not being pilfered (stolen) by the nurses themselves.

The fitness of a nurse to work is obviously also taken very seriously by the CLPNA because of the potential consequences it could have on patients.

The CLPNA may have made a different conclusion on some of these allegations if Ms. Beaulieu would have been present at the hearing to provide her side of the story on various items, but she was not present.  One allegation in particular I think could have been decided differently was the charge that there was an occasion she was not fit to work.  The hearings tribunal found that was substantiated by the accounts of other witnesses, and seemed to imply that Ms. Beaulieu may have been intoxicated or high at the time.

The CPLNA went on to find that these various proven allegations amounted to unprofessional conduct, and then moved on to the penalty / sanction.

The sanction was as follows:

  1. Written decision as reprimand;
  2. Fitness to Work Assessment and Substance Abuse Assessment prior to re-application for permit;
  3. Completion of a variety of courses prior to re-application for permit;
  4. Payment of 50% of investigation and hearing costs.

The 3-year interim suspension was treated as a “time served” suspension, so that no additional specific additional suspension period was imposed.

My Take

This regulated member very likely could have limited some of the sanctions imposed against her, and avoided a full 3-year + suspension period if she had handled this differently.

Firstly, I have personally been legal counsel for several professionals accused of misconduct.  I am surprised at how long it took to set this matter down for the hearing, but I am fairly confident based on my experience that the regulated member could have gotten this heard much sooner had she been participating in this process.  This is especially so given the fact that she was not able to work given her interim permit suspension.

Secondly, hearing tribunals do not like it when an accused regulated member refuses to participate in a hearing and refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing for conduct which obviously did occur.  In this case, even if she had nothing to say about most of the allegations, she could have spoken to why she was unfit to work and she could have apologized for the misconduct that was beyond any reasonable argument.  She could also have agreed to certain obvious facts prior to the hearing itself (but apparently did not), which would have reduced the resources spent on the hearing by the hearing tribunal.  These things could have helped quite a bit to reduce the overall penalty levied against her.

Bow River Law

Bow River Law’s lawyers are knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in professional regulatory matters.  If you have been accused of unprofessional conduct, please give us a call as soon as possible to help you towards the best outcome. 

A copy of CLPNA v Rebecca Beaulieu (#26233) (June 24, 2021) can be found at the following link: