Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia - Tribunal reprimands nurse
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Tribunal reprimands nurse

19 Feb 2020

A tribunal has reprimanded a nurse after she physically abused a patient.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (tribunal) has reprimanded Ms Suzanne Smith and ordered a condition be placed on her registration after she physically abused a patient by slapping the patient across the face, used unnecessary force to restrain the patient and failed to engage appropriate de-escalation techniques.

On 15 September 2018, Ms Smith was working at Northeast Health Wangaratta and was the nurse in charge of the emergency department. A patient in a wheelchair attended the department after an intentional prescription drug overdose and later attempted to leave the emergency department prior to being seen by a medical registrar, which presented serious risks to her health. After her attempt to leave was refused, the patient tried to light a cigarette. Ms Smith took the cigarette from the patient. The patient became highly agitated and verbally abused, lunged and struck out as Ms Smith. Ms Smith failed to de-escalate the situation and instead unnecessarily restrained the patient and slapped her across the face.

Ms Smith self-reported her behaviour to the hospital and her employment was subsequently terminated. She was referred by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) to the tribunal. There was no dispute that the incident was a one-off and that the patient’s behaviour had been extremely challenging.

The tribunal found that Ms Smith’s behaviour amounted to professional misconduct. The tribunal accepted the NMBA’s and Ms Smith’s joint proposal that she be reprimanded and a condition placed on her registration requiring her to complete a reflective practice report. The tribunal noted that Ms Smith’s conduct was very serious and unacceptable, but taking all the circumstances into account it did not warrant a period of suspension.

The full decision is published the Austlii website.

Please note: due to an administrative delay this news item was published on 8 September 2020.

Page reviewed 19/02/2020