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Final panel decision: What should happen to a nurse who sent improper messages to a child on an online dating site?

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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

Regarding his insight, the panel considered that Nurse A made partial admissions at the outset of the hearing, and apologised to the panel for his misconduct. Further, he had engaged throughout this regulatory process and admitted that his fitness to practise is currently impaired on public interest grounds.

The panel also appreciated that Nurse A had a short time to process its decision on the findings of facts before providing further oral evidence.

However, the panel considered that Nurse A only demonstrated a partial understanding of why what he did was wrong and how this impacted negatively on the reputation of the nursing profession. In particular, when asked by the panel to expand on what he considered his “mistakes” to be, he focused on the content of the online conversation, and not when questioned about how he would handle the situation differently in the future. The panel did not consider that Nurse A was able to provide sufficiently detailed answers

The panel took into account the training courses he had undertaken, as well as his reflection on these courses. The panel considered his actions to be inherently difficult to remediate. However, it did not consider the training Nurse A had undertaken to be broadly relevant to the misconduct found proved.

Having regard to all of the above, the panel was satisfied that Nurse A’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.

Determination on sanction

The panel considered this case very carefully and decided to make a suspension order for 12 months.

The panel considered the aggravating factors to be:

  • Nurse A initiated and engaged in sexually explicit discussions with someone who he believed to be under 16 years old, having been told of his age on two occasions;
  • Nurse A proposed a meeting either at his home or in a public place with someone who he believed to be under the age of 16;
  • Nurse A actually attended such a meeting;
  • His misconduct was only brought to an end by external factors.

The panel considered the mitigating features to be:

  • There was no evidence of actual harm;
  • This was an isolated incident of misconduct;
  • Nurse A engaged throughout this regulatory process, and made admissions at the outset of this hearing;
  • Nurse A submitted positive testimonials and references as to his good character;
  • There are no previous or subsequent regulatory findings that have been made against Nurse A;
  • Nurse A demonstrated evidence of developing insight.

The panel considered that, although it took place over three days, Nurse A’s misconduct was an isolated episode. The panel further considered that there was no evidence before it of any harmful deep-seated personality or attitudinal problems.

In his evidence, Nurse A; said that he have no sexual interest in children. His online activities which led to this misconduct took place on a lawful adult-only application. Nurse A; had no previous convictions. He was not prosecuted for any offence relating to these events.

An application was made to the magistrates’ court for an interim and substantive sexual review order. The district judge refused the applications on the grounds that Nurse A did not present a risk to the public.

His computer and mobile phone were seized and inspected by the Police and there was no evidence that any illegal pornographic material was found in his possession or on the computers. There is no evidence that his misconduct has been repeated in the 18 months since the events.

The panel previously noted that Nurse A’s insight into his misconduct was developing. Although it had previously determined that a risk of repetition remains, the panel was of the view that such a risk was not significant.

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