A snapshot of registered health practitioner misconduct in Victoria: March 2022

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By Stuart Eustice, Partner & Holly White, Lawyer

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Thomas [2022] VCAT 291

A nurse working in an aged care facility was reprimanded and had her registration cancelled after failing to take necessary neurological observations of a patient following a fall and covering up her failure by amending the patient’s clinical records eight days later. The nurse amended the clinical records in circumstances where she became concerned about professional and personal ramifications after finding out the patient became palliative and might die. Over the ensuing months, she provided various versions of the events which she ultimately admitted were untrue. The Board took immediate action, limiting the nurse to work between 6am – 11pm and under supervision. The Tribunal considered a two-year disqualification period was appropriate, however reduced this due to the supervisory conditions being in place for 32 months. The nurse is disqualified from applying for registration until 1 May 2023.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Laycock [2022] VCAT 287

A nurse who violated boundaries in respect of two psychiatric in patients has been reprimanded and had his registration cancelled. The nurse’s ‘appalling’ conduct included, over a long period of time:

  1. Inappropriate communication with patients during admission and after discharge.
  2. Arranging to meet the patients outside the hospital.
  3. Sexual activity on a number of occasions at the hospital and off-site.

The Board took immediate action and the nurse was suspended from practice for nearly 6.5 years prior to the Tribunal’s decision. He is disqualified from applying for registration or providing any health service for 10 years, noting the nurse’s minimal insight. The Tribunal considered a prohibition order was necessary because it has ‘no confidence the nurse is a suitable person to provide health services either’.

During the investigation, the nurse sought to impugn one of the patient’s character, describing her dress as ‘provocative’ and ‘skanky’. During the hearing, he suggested the two patients were colluding in their allegations. The Tribunal noted similarities with a number of prior decisions, ‘male health practitioners engaging in highly inappropriate personal and sexual relationships with vulnerable and unwell female patients in the course of them receiving psychiatric care’. The Tribunal intends this decision to tell the wider community other nurses that the profession has no room for people who engage in such ‘abhorrent and exploitative conduct’, noting it is intended ‘to send a very clear message to nurses — and particularly to male nurses working in psychiatric settings — that absolute professionalism is expected at all times with an unwavering focus on the therapeutic needs of patients’.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Thomas [2022] VCAT 291

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Laycock [2022] VCAT 287

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    Protection of the Public under 150 of the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law