On 16 and 17 August 2022 by way of an audio-visual link the Health Practitioner’s Disciplinary Tribunal (the Tribunal) heard a charge of professional misconduct laid by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) appointed by the Nursing Council of New Zealand against Ms S, a registered nurse of X, (the nurse).
The charge alleged that:
From about September 2019 as a registered nurse, the nurse entered into an inappropriate, and ultimately intimate, relationship with [A], a former inmate of [X] Men’s Prison and a person to whom Ms [S] had provided health services while employed as a mental health professional at [Z] and working at [X] prison.
The conduct alleged amounted to professional misconduct under section 100(1)(a) and/or (b) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (the Act).
The nurse admitted the charge and that it amounted to professional misconduct. The hearing proceeded on the basis of an agreed summary of facts.
The nurse was employed by a health service [Z] as a mental health professional. The nurse had nine consultations with Mr A who was an inmate in a men’s prison, the final session being on 21 May 2019 when Mr A’s file was closed. In late June, the nurse was contacted through Facebook by a partner of Mr A’s peer in prison asking if the nurse would write to Mr A. At that time, the nurse was still working on site at the prison but resigned from her role, her last day being 12 July 2019. She then started a new role with a different employer.
In August 2019, the nurse first wrote to Mr A. Between 2 and 5 October the nurse and Mr A spoke three times by phone and soon after, they began a romantic relationship. Mr A was released from prison in February 2021 and at the time of the hearing, they were moving in together.
The Tribunal found the charge established.
Considering the nature and duration of the therapeutic relationship and the relatively short time between the commencement of the personal relationship after the end of the professional relationship, the Tribunal considered the nurse’s conduct unethical and amounted to malpractice under section 100(1)(a) of the Act. The Tribunal also considered the conduct likely to bring discredit to the profession under section 100(1)(c) of the Act.
The Tribunal ordered:
- Suspension of registration for 6 months, one month from the date of the written decision;
- Conditions for three years following resumption of practice;
- Payment of $11,500 amounting to 25% of the total costs of the hearing.
The Tribunal directed publication of the decision and a summary.