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Final panel decision: what should happen to a nurse who accessed a patient's record without the authority to do so?

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Find out how the NMC panel acted in this case. Not yet read the case? Read the charge and background here 

Decision on impairment

The panel concluded that Nurse A’s misconduct was remediable. However, it noted that, in respect of dishonesty, that this is harder to remediate. The panel noted that Nurse A had engaged with this process and provided positive character references and testimonials.

Nurse A also stated that she was aware that her actions were wrong and, if she found herself in a similar situation, she would act differently. The panel noted that Nurse A said she would now document any conversation she had with a patient in a patient’s notes and complete an incident report if required.

The panel found that Nurse A had also considered the impact of her misconduct on Patient A and demonstrated some insight into her misconduct. However, it considered that her insight was limited and related mainly to the impact her misconduct had on herself. The panel considered that Nurse A failed to demonstrate why her actions in accessing Patient A’s records were wrong and inappropriate.

The panel has no documentary evidence that Nurse A had subsequently undertaken training to prevent her actions from recurring and that she fully comprehend the importance of patient confidentiality.

The panel considered that Nurse A had breached fundamental tenets of the nursing profession, namely by failing to be open and honest, act with integrity and uphold the reputation of the profession. It could not exclude the likelihood of her doing so in the future. Having regard to all of the above, the panel was satisfied that Nurse A’ fitness to practise was currently impaired.

Determination on sanction

The panel considered this case very carefully and decided to make a suspension order for a period of 12 months. The legal assessor, Mr X submitted that her misconduct related to an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished nursing career. He submitted that the panel had clear evidence within her references and testimonials that she was a professional, able and highly effective nurse.

Mr X submitted that the facts found proved do not demonstrate any clinical deficiencies within your practice, but arose out of a complicated friendship.

The panel accepted the advice of the legal assessor. The panel was of the view that Nurse A’s misconduct was a serious departure from the standards of a registered nurse. While she had shown some remorse for her actions, a risk of repetition of misconduct remain.

The panel considered that this order was necessary to mark the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession, and to send to the public and the profession a clear message about the standard of behaviour required of a registered nurse who has inappropriately accessed patient records.

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