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Being professionally responsible

What is accountability

Three physicians walking down corridorTo be accountable is to be professionally responsible or answerable.

Every healthcare professional or trainee is accountable to:

  • patients
  • hospital or facility
  • university or school
  • provincial/territorial professional regulatory body

Every healthcare professional should:

  • maintain knowledge and skills
  • be professional
  • comply with sound policies
  • stay healthy — and practice only if healthy to do so

Ethically, healthcare workers are accountable to their patients. When patients are upset with their care they may complain to the hospital or facility. Patients may also complain about a physician to the provincial medical regulatory authority (College).
Regulatory authority, professional:  Licensing body for a profession.
Provincial/territorial medical regulatory authority (College)
Body that regulates the practice of medicine in each province or territory to ensure the public receives quality medical care from physicians. The responsibilities include:
- Issuance of certificates of registration to allow the practice of medicine,
- Maintenance of standards of practice,
- Investigation of complaints against physicians, and
- Remedial education or discipline for those guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence.
The medical profession is self-regulating in Canada. Each authority has an investigative process and committee structure to make decisions on different issues and complaints.

Case: A physician falls asleep
A male physician asleep at desk


A staff physician is belligerent and verbally abusive to students and colleagues. The physician sometimes falls asleep when taking histories from patients.

A concerned colleague complains to the hospital. The Chief of the department conducts an accountability review and the allegations are confirmed.

Think about it

How would you handle this situation?


The physician is referred for a medical assessment. The diagnosis is narcolepsy.

A treatment plan is approved, and after several months the physician's health condition is satisfactory and he returns to work.