Nurse in ‘professional boundaries” disgrace

A male nurse has broken Nursing Council rules barring having sexual relations with mental health patients but the disciplinary system seems to be mainifestly inadequate.

Rachel Smalley comments on ” a story that is making my blood boil at the moment” in “Professional boundaries”.

She has a major depressive disorder. She has anxiety and panic attacks associated with that. She has a history of suicidal tendencies and that tendency increases when she’s under stress, and she also has some serious alcohol-related issues.

You name it; this woman is not in a good place.

So she’s being treated for her condition and one of the people helping with her care is a male nurse. He is directly involved in looking after her.

So this nurse – according to a report by the health and disability commissioner – he seduced his patient, and he seduced her with wine, the report says.

He turned up at her house – in his district health board car – and pulled out a bottle of wine. They drank that wine and then they had sex.

And then he left.

Then, he came back later in the day and they had sex again. He said he would come back again on another day and he would bring more wine. He said – and I quote – that he “fancied her”

This is disgraceful and unprofessional conduct.

The nurse admitted – once it all came to light – that he knew the woman was vulnerable, and had mental health issues and problems with alcohol. He knew all of that.

The health and disability commissioner, Anthony Hill, said in his report that the nurse had “sexually exploited” his patient. Sexual exploitation, he said.

And so what is the next step? Dismissal? No.

The recommendation is that the nurse undertakes further training on “professional boundaries”. The report also suggested the nursing council might want to consider a review of his competence.

It’s staggering, isn’t it?

This man has failed at the very first hurdle of nursing – his role is to care for someone who is in medical need, not exploit them for his own sexual gratification.

Surely that’s grounds for dismissal? Why would you allow this man to carry on treating, in particular, women with mental health issues?

The nurse, for his part, has apologised.

He said sorry, and there it rests.

This seems to be a very soft approach to serious misconduct. He couldn’t have behaved much worse.

But it may result in appropriate action, eventually. NZ Herald reports that Nurse may lose licence over sex with mentally ill woman.

A forensic mental health nurse who had sex with a recent patient after giving her wine quit his district health board job as soon as he was outed.

Within two months, during which he underwent professional counselling, he had resumed nursing and at present does casual work in aged and dementia care.

It’s staggering that he was given “professional counselling” and was allowed to continue working.

Now he is at risk of having his nursing licence cancelled, following a Health and Disability Commissioner investigation that found he sexually exploited the woman and breached the Code of Patients’ Rights.

He is at risk? What about the patient being at risk? And other patients?

Mr Hill has asked the Director of Proceedings to consider the case. The independent prosecutor has not yet decided whether to take any action, which could include laying charges at the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Mr Hill has also asked the Nursing Council to review the nurse’s competence and recommended that he write an apology to the patient and do some training on professional boundaries.

That sounds like a totally inadequare response.

The Herald lists Nursing Council rules

  • Nurses are banned from sexual or intimate behaviour or relationships with patients and those close to them.
  • Sexual relationships with former patients may be inappropriate regardless of when the nursing care ceased.
  • Sexual or intimate relationships might never be appropriate if the former patient had been mentally unwell.

“An apology to the patient and do some training on professional boundaries” seems manifestly inadequate.

Leave a comment


  1. Mike C

     /  17th February 2015

    The sleazy bastard should’ve been sacked.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th February 2015

    Sorry, I draw the line for the professional outragers here. Being mentally unwell does not preclude anyone, male or female, from the right to have intimate relations with the person of their choice. Who does Ms Smalley think she is to make that decision for this woman? An arrogant twit, that’s who.

    It does take two to tango and matters of consent are often more grey than black and white despite the attempts to paint them that way by the perennially indignant victims set cheered on by the PC brigade.

    There may be an issue here or not, but as sure as heck I don’t know if there was and I’m betting few if any of those so keen to blame the nurse know either.

    • Mike C

       /  17th February 2015

      @AlanW. For God’s Sakes. The man took advantage of a girl who was in a damaged and vulnerable psychological state of mind.

      He abused his position as her caregiver by plying her with alcohol so that he was able to have sex with her.

      Would you feel the same way about the man if he had done the same thing to a girl with Downs or Foetal Alcohol Syndrome?

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  17th February 2015

        I’m well over the automatic assumption that the female gender means an individual is incapable of responsibility for their own decisions and actions.

        As for damaged and vulnerable, hello, so are very many people possibly including the nurse. Still doesn’t make them irresponsible for their own actions.

        Your question about the Downs or FAS disabilities simply highlights that you recognise not all disabilities are the same so you are trying me out on serious ones. Well, that is exactly my point. Until we know the detailed situation and the grey areas that always exists it is stupid to rush to judgement.

      • Kittycatkin

         /  17th February 2015

        But he didn’t.

    • Kittycatkin

       /  17th February 2015

      My reply was meant to be to the q about the Down’s Syndrome girl.

  3. Mike C

     /  17th February 2015

    The bastard admitted his guilt and then resigned from his job. I am somewhat concerned about the welfare of the old biddies that he is responsible for at the Home for the Bewildered 😦

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  17th February 2015

      Obviously he was guilty of breaking his professional code of ethics assuming she was his current patient which is not explicitly stated.

      Beyond that is mere leaping to conclusions which may or may not be justified.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  17th February 2015

      How do you know none of the old biddies are keen for a bit of fun before they croak? Not everyone wants to spend years in the lounge doing jigsaws. Damned if I would. I intend to grow old disgracefully.

  4. Mike C

     /  17th February 2015

    @AlanW. Thanks very much for putting that scenario in my minds-eye, because now it can never be erased 😦

    I can see “Registered Nurse B” rocking up to 81 year old Granny’s wee room with a bottle of wine under his arm, and then he flops his cock out of his trousers and tells Granny that she can drink the contents of the bottle, as long as she takes her false teeth out and performs an important task first. LOL.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  17th February 2015

      That’s the spirit, Mike. Imagination trumps indignation every time.

  5. J BLoggs

     /  17th February 2015

    Before anyone mounts thier high horse about the lack of punishment, this is just the report from the HDC commissioner, which, when it comes to serious complaints, is just the first step in a series of actions. Up next is the Nursing council’s turn to respond to the complaint, and as mentioned in the article, the director of proceedings for the Health and Disability tribunal (a court with legal powers to decide penalties) will decide whether or not the Nurse will have a case to answer. From my observations, I suspect the Nurse will be hauled in front of the HDT, and the HDT will more than likely order the NC to de-register him.

  6. Kittycatkin

     /  17th February 2015

    As patient/medical worker relationships are forbidden, it should never happen-but I also think that women are diminished by the idea that sex is something done TO women by men, not WITH them. If a former patient and a medical worker meet later, and are consenting adults, then the idea that the woman is always a victim who’s taken advantage of by the man is insulting. Supposing it was a man who was the ex-patient and a female nurse ? Would people assume that she ‘plied him with drink’ (which, in the case ot women, we are considered too stupid to know is being done) or would he be considered to be capable of deciding for himself whether to drink it or not ?

    I would NEVER condone a case where the woman was not intelligent enough to be able to make any such decision, such as a Down’s Syndrome person with the IQ of a small child,

    To me, there are two issues here, The rules are very specific, and anyone breaking them does it knowingly and must take the consequences. But I dislike the automatic woman-as-victim reaction, as if we are the helpless prey of men. Plying with drink is an insulting term, implying stupidity on the part of the drinker.

    The man was an idiot, He was married, for one thing. He was laying himself open to all sorts of trouble-supposing she told his wife ? Or did a Fatal Attraction ?

  7. J Bloggs

     /  18th February 2015

    Just correct and clarify from my post yesterday: The Tribunal is actually called “New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal” not the “Health and Disability Tribunal”

    If anyone is interested in how they deal with cases, and wants to wade through the legalese, here is a link to a recent case of sexual misconduct by a mental health nurse that went to the NZHPDT

    Click to access nur14274ddecisionweb.pdf

    I suspect the case mentioned in the opening article will proceed along somewhat similar lines

  1. Mental Health Nurse exploits pateint | Counselling New Zealand

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