Tribunal cancels nurse’s registration for improper relationship with a patient’s spouse

07 Aug 2017

A tribunal has cancelled an enrolled nurse’s registration for engaging in an improper sexual relationship with a patient’s spouse.

The Health Practitioners Tribunal of South Australia (the tribunal) reprimanded Mr Christopher John Barnes, cancelled his nursing registration and suspended him from applying for registration for a period of two years.

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) investigated a complaint from the patient alleging the improper sexual relationship while Mr Barnes had been providing him inpatient services as an enrolled nurse at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre.

Mr Barnes admitted to the tribunal that he had made false statements to AHPRA during the investigation into the complaint; falsely claiming that his relationship with the patient’s spouse had began 18 months after the patient’s discharge from his care.

The tribunal noted that AHPRA had conducted an extensive and diligent investigation on behalf of the NMBA, and only when evidence from this investigation was presented to Mr Barnes did he admit to engaging in a sexual relationship with the patient’s spouse during the period he was providing care to the patient.

Mr Barnes admitted to the tribunal that his behaviour constituted professional misconduct.

The tribunal agreed with the patient’s statement that Mr Barnes had broken his trust and lied to him whilst posing as a good person helping the patient’s family.

In making its decision the tribunal noted that Mr Barnes' conduct was a grave departure from the standards expected of a nurse and found that he had engaged in behaviour that constituted professional misconduct.

Along with the reprimand and cancellation of his nursing registration with a two year period before he could reapply, Mr Barnes was also ordered to pay costs.

NMBA Chair Lynette Cusack RN, said that the NMBA and AHPRA work in partnership to ensure that the standards of nursing care meet the public’s trust.

“The NMBA and AHPRA will take action if the conduct of a nurse doesn’t meet the standards the public expects,” Associate Professor Cusack said.

“This was a serious case of professional boundaries being violated, and patients expect and deserve better.”

The tribunal’s decision is published on the tribunal website.

Page reviewed 7/08/2017