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.