11 Feb 2021
A tribunal has cancelled a registered nurse’s registration and disqualified him from re-applying until 2022 as a result of him engaging in serious boundary violations with two patients in early 2015.
Mr Efren Callos made admissions to breaching professional boundaries with Patient A and Patient B, both of whom were patients at the hospital at which Mr Callos then worked.
In relation to Patient A, Mr Callos exchanged mobile telephone numbers with her while smoking in front of the hospital. Although Mr Callos did not provide direct nursing care to Patient A, he was aware that she was a patient at the hospital and admitted that he ought to have known that she was vulnerable by reason of her medical condition (including ongoing short-term memory loss). In February 2015, while Patient A was an inpatient at the hospital, Mr Callos met Patient A outside the hospital after finishing his shift and they engaged in sexual intercourse in his car. He then persistently called and texted Patient A for a period of three months between February and April 2015. The contact was both unwelcome and distressing for Patient A.
At around the same time, Mr Callos was directly involved in Patient B’s nursing care and had access to her clinical records. Following her discharge from hospital, Mr Callos attempted to engage in a personal relationship with Patient B. Mr Callos texted and attempt to call her for a period of approximately 10 days. Patient B had not provided Mr Callos with her contact details.
As a result of the notification, Mr Callos gave an undertaking to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the Board) not to practise as a nurse from 9 December 2016. He has not practised as a nurse since that time.
Following an investigation, the Board referred Mr Callos’ conduct to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal), which delivered its final decision on 6 January 2021.
Having found that Mr Callos engaged in professional misconduct, the Tribunal ordered:
In cancelling Mr Callos’ registration and imposing the disqualification period, the tribunal noted the extremely serious exploitation of the inherent power imbalance that existed between Mr Callos and Patient A and a disturbing pattern of conduct by Mr Callos in respect of Patient B, when considered in the context of his conduct with Patient A. The tribunal also had regard to the vulnerability of the patients involved and that a nurse of Mr Callos’ experience ought to have understood his professional obligations, but instead chose to transgress in a very serious manner.
The tribunal noted Mr Callos’ insight and remorse in relation to Patient A but were critical of the lack of insight he displayed with respect to Patient B.
Ultimately, the Tribunal noted that “it is never acceptable for a nurse to opportunistically use the status of the profession to develop a personal relationship with a patient with a view to engaging in sexual intercourse” and that “the public confidence in the nursing profession would be shaken if Mr Callos’ conduct was not dealt with firmly”.
The decision is available on Austlii.