Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia - NMBA asks nurses and students to ‘take notice’ as student nurse and registered nurse appear in court
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NMBA asks nurses and students to ‘take notice’ as student nurse and registered nurse appear in court

14 Sep 2017

A Victorian woman has pleaded guilty to claiming to be a registered nurse when she was a student and a second woman has pleaded guilty of supporting her to do so.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), on behalf of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA), has prosecuted a student nurse for claiming to be a registered nurse when she was not and a registered nurse for playing her part in supporting the student nurse to do so.

This is the first case where AHPRA has prosecuted an individual for holding another person out as a registered health practitioner.

Geelong Magistrates' Court heard the matter regarding the registered nurse on 20 June 2017 and the student nurse on 29 August 2017.

The registered nurse pleaded guilty to three charges of using the protected title ‘nurse’ in relation to ‘holding out’ the student nurse.

The student nurse pleaded guilty to:

  • one count of ‘holding out’ which means she claimed to be a registered nurse on 23 occasions between April and July 2016, 
  • one count of using the title ‘clinical nurse’ when she used the initials CN or a description that could reasonably be understood to indicate that she was registered or qualified to practise nursing, and 
  • two counts of title misuse contained on her LinkedIn and Facebook page.

The court found it was proven that she had been working at Bupa Barrabool Aged Care Facility, between April and July 2016, as a nurse while not registered or qualified to do so.

AHPRA’s investigations revealed that the student nurse was employed as a personal care assistant (PCA) and not registered with the NMBA as a registered nurse, though she had been performing the role of a community nurse.

The role, created by Bupa, was required to be filled by a registered nurse (RN) or an enrolled nurse (EN). During her employment, the student nurse used the derivatives ‘enrolled nurse’, ‘endorsed enrolled nurse’ and ‘clinical nurse’ in documents and performed various tasks that would ordinarily be performed by an RN or EN.

‘Nursing professionals when caring for the elderly in our communities need to be suitably qualified and trained. Any registered nurse supporting a student to appear to be or act as a registered nurse will face the legal ramifications, as will the student involved. Patients and their families who access care from elderly care facilities deserve more,’ Associate Professor Lynette Cusack, RN, Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) said.

‘We would ask all student nurses and student midwives, and all registered nurses and midwives to take notice that it is not okay to expose any patient to receiving care from an unregistered, unqualified person. No one should pretend to be a nurse or midwife, no matter if they are a student in training or not and this type of behavior should not be encouraged by registered practitioners. It’s unprofessional, unethical and irresponsible,’ Prof. Cusack said.

The registered nurse was sentenced with an aggregate fine of $6,000 and costs of $8,217, to be paid within six months and no conviction was recorded. The student nurse was also fined $6,000, had no conviction recorded and was ordered to pay costs of $8,217.06.

If anyone has a concern about their registered health practitioner, or thinks someone is pretending to be a registered health practitioner, we urge them to contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.

Make sure you are seeing a registered nurse or midwife

It is a serious matter if anyone who is not a registered health practitioner claims to be a registered health practitioner or uses titles that are protected under the National Law (e.g. ‘psychologist', ‘medical practitioner', ‘nurse’ etc.). Both are offences and may be prosecuted by AHPRA.

The National Law protects the public by ensuring that only registered health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified are able to use protected titles. The law allows for penalties for using protected titles or holding out as a registered practitioner when not entitled to. It is also an offence to perform manipulation of the cervical spine unless the person is a registered chiropractor, osteopath, medical practitioner or physiotherapist. The maximum penalty which a court may impose is $30,000 (in the case of an individual) or $60,000 (in the case of a body corporate).

AHPRA reminds consumers that it is important that they ensure that the practitioner they are seeing is appropriately registered. Anyone receiving treatment from an unregistered person who is claiming to be registered is a cause for concern and we want to hear from them.

Remember to check the Register of practitioners or you can raise a concern by calling 1300 419 495.

For more information

  • For media enquiries: (03) 8708 9200.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries: 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 3 9275 9009 (overseas callers).
Page reviewed 14/09/2017