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Nurse 'bully' banned for poor behaviour and medication mistakes

A nurse who bullied elderly patients, made mistakes with medication and was regularly rude to staff and visitors has been banned from nursing for a year.

Staff nurse Anita Owen, aged in her 60s, pointedly questioned a visitor’s need to give her chronically ill grandmother a drink saying “she is dying anyway”.

In more than a decade working for Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board at Ysbyty Gwynedd, her career was marked by a host of complaints.

Ms Owen resigned from her job at the north Wales health board last summer after an interim investigation into an allegation of patient bullying.

Her unnamed elderly victim, who had problems swallowing and could only take one tablet at a time, was left tearful by Ms Owen in an incident in July 2011.

She was ordered by the staff nurse to drink a full cup of water and take all her medication, which amounted to three tablets, at once.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practice hearing found today that that allegation and a series of others she faced were proved.

Panel members went on to make a 12 month suspension order to “mark the seriousness of the misconduct.”

Ms Owen, who did not attend the hearing, will have to demonstrate evidence of real reflection in her behaviour to a future panel if she wants to be reinstated.

It will meet next year and can impose a further ban if it is unconvinced by her claims and feels she has not kept up with her professional training.

The panel listed in detail a total of 26 allegations that were made against Ms Owen covering a period from 1998 until 2011.

In total they found that 12 of the allegations were proved and 14 were deemed “unproved.”

The panel heard Ms Owen began working on the 30 bed Moelwyn ward, dealing with respiratory, elderly care, and patients with diabetes, from 1998.

“She was moved to Tegid ward in 2001 following a number of complaints and errors,” NMC documentation states.

That ward, which later became Prysor ward, was where she worked for the remainder of her time at Ysbyty Gwynedd.

Before her initial move she made a number of medication errors and was sent on a drug administration workshop to improve her performance.

One of the allegations found to be proved today dates from November 2000 when Owen gave a patient an incorrect does of Dexamethasone

She was later to deny the allegation in writing to the panel which noted that she had signed and agreed a “plan of action” at work after the incident.

None of the victims of the outlined incidents are named but the incidents themselves are often described in detail.

One which was found to be proved happened in July 2009.

“When asked by a patient’s granddaughter for a sponge to give the patient a drink, (Owen) replied saying “why would you want to give your grandmother a drink? She is dying anyway.”

Ms Owen sent a letter to the panel in June in which she admitted that using the term “dying” may have been a blunt use of language.

Despite making such an admission her letter goes on to contradict itself by denying that she would ever have used such language.

“Ms Owen in her response dated 26 June 2013, ‘accepts in hindsight that she may have been a little blunt and that the use of the word ‘dying’ was wrong,” the panel’s documents state.

“But the registrant maintains that she would never have spoken to a relative with the words quoted in the allegation,’ it adds.

“Given Ms Owen’s admission of using the word ‘dying’, the panel concluded that Ms Owen had said words to the effect of “why would you want to give your grandmother a drink? She is dying,” it concludes.

Among a series of allegations found to be proved by the NMC panel are claims of instances when Owen was “challenging and confrontational” to colleagues, rude to pharmacy staff and shouted at one colleague to “shut up.”

Concluding the hearing today panel chairman Colin Youngson said the outcome would be confirmed in writing to Ms Owen.



Readers' comments (21)

  • Ellen Watters

    Banned for a year?? She should be struck off for such abysmal behaviour..

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  • Wow! with an attitude and beviour like that, she could have been a matron.

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  • NMC may have missed the boat on this one surely she should have been struck off!

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  • What about her Trust simply moving the 'problem' around the hospital and NOT dealing with it. Surely they allowed exposure of their patients to this bully! What sanctions for the Trust?

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  • michael stone

    I'm with the 'why only a year - surely for ever !' brigade, on this one.

    Anyone who does this:

    'Staff nurse Anita Owen, aged in her 60s, pointedly questioned a visitor’s need to give her chronically ill grandmother a drink saying “she is dying anyway”.'

    has got no place in nursing, in my opinion.

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  • Vicky Hambly

    and i worry i wont make a good nurse!!!

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  • "The panel listed in detail a total of 26 allegations that were made against Ms Owen covering a period from 1998 until 2011."

    Yet more evidence of totally useless "nurse managers"

    Why so long before some real action was taken to protect patients ?

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  • Should have been struck off in my opinion. How can the public have faith in the nursing profession otherwise.

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  • Unbelievable and disgraceful she was allowed to stay in the profession for so long! Where were the nurse managers? Totally agree, should have been struck off.

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  • Ditto the above. How can unprofessional behavior, rudeness, callousness, bullying, putting patients in danger with medication errors....over such a long period, NOT be grounds for dismissal? It beggars belief. The public reading this will just continue to believe that poor practice is ignored and moved around to make it go away. Truly shocking!

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  • I don't often agree with all of the comments on this forum, which are often of a bullying nature in themselves. On this occassion though, I agree with you all completely.

    Whilst concerned about this nurses behaviour I am even more concerned about the fact it was a known problem that was not tackled before now.

    I'm not even sure though, it is simply down to the ward managers or matrons. I know of a situation a couple of years ago, where a ward manager tried to tackle a local problem with the performance of a nurse only to find themselves totally unsupported, not by the matron but by HR!

    Not sure how this all ended up as I've moved on, but this case made me reflect on that and wonder.

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  • Typical NHS just move the problem instead of addressing it. We have had this in our Hospital time and time again. In fact just recently a member of staff has been relocated to our department because of the number of complaints against her on her previous ward.

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  • I'm appalled that she wasn't struck off the register completely FOREVER!

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 20-Sep-2013 10:44 am

    I have read, that the NHS finds it very difficult to actually sack incompetent clinicians - which fits with your post.

    Vicky Hambly | 19-Sep-2013 3:39 pm

    and i worry i wont make a good nurse!!!

    I'm only guessing, of course, but my guess is that if you are worried about not 'making a good nurse', for reasons other than 'not being able to keep up with the academic bit', then you probably will make a good nurse. It certainly seems to imply, that if you knew you were a bad nurse, you would stop being a nurse.

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  • Unfortunately the only thing that happens to bullies in The NHS if your lucky is that they get moved.
    They never get dealt with, I know. They end up with the opinion that they are untouchable and they often are. An area that I once worked on was like a living hell. I was only really 'allowed' to be moved when I had a nervous breakdown. I was looked after but the problem remains to this day. They have a high turn over of junior staff, the coven is still in control. Everyone knows, nobody cares.
    Management sweep it under the carpet.

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  • I'm puzzled at the exclamations of faux outrage here. Without a doubt, this individual is a nasty piece of work. Her charge sheet recorded incidents as far back as 1998.

    Why wasn't she dealt with a decade ago, or any time between then and her eventual ftp hearing? Could it be because most nurses foster a culture of cover up? Oh yes, they will claim to have completed and submitted a gazillion incident forms (although most don't) and display further outrage that no one paid any attention to them. But they will do no more than that. Too busy not rocking the boat. Oh they may think that they are compassionate (they love that word) nurses and would never behave in such a manner. But they will tolerate it in others because they are too busy protecting their own interests.

    They will circle and engage in a feeding frenzy of outrage and being "appalled". Someone even posted that he/she didn't usually agree with most comments here because of the perceived "bullying nature" only to pile on and agree completely!

    This person was operating for a decade, supported by the inactions and complicity of her colleagues. All nurses and nurse managers need to look around, spend less time being appalled and more time actually ensuring that people like this don't get away with it.

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  • This sounds like an example of someone who was 'difficult' to manage and subsequently not managed at all. I often hear about nurses and other members of staff who have a reputation for being 'awkward' or difficult' and very often the situation has been going on for years. Everyone knows there is a problem but no-one has done anything about it. Patients and colleagues suffer as a result. It's often not until a new manager comes along (who has no prior history with the individual) that action is taken.

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  • It seems to be the same throughout the NHS.HR make every effort to support the Nurse who has 'Development needs, 'Training needs' ,Action Plans' etc. etc. .
    It involves weeks of work-by the Charge Nurse - to bring a portfolio of evidence with examples of poor practice to an inquiry- only for HR to pussy foot' around and keep the person in post 'with extra support ' . They then make a 6 month plan and go over it all again .No wonder it takes 10 years to remove some one in the NHS.
    Employment law and employee rights ,fear of being sued, all make Health Boards loathe to actually tackle the issue in a timely manner and safeguard the one person they are obliged to care for -the Patient.

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  • I have never seen a Charge Nurse spend any time creating a 'portfolio of evidence'. Any nurse who highlights poor practice is normally left unsupported by his/her peers and managers. Anon 20 Sep 5.26pm is right. Nurses and managers need to act. They are cowed too often by the threats of a few.

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  • Hopefully this nurse will, after a year not nursing decide to call it a day. Also how can she remain updated in training if she isn't able to practice as a nurse?

    There is also the possibility that at the age of 60 plus she is burnt out, and her behaviour and mistakes are due to that to some extent. Whatever the reasons, she clearly shouldn't be nursing again, even as a health care assistant.

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