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

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A case study showing an example of a nurse who was accused of sending improper messages on a dating site and how this led to their fitness to practise being considered

you are the panel

you are the panel

The charge

In 2016 while using the messaging function on a dating site, and having received a message from  Person B, Nurse A then sent messages of a sexual nature. Nurse A’s actions were improperly sexually motivated in relation to this.

The background

Nurse A was employed as a paramedic at an ambulance service, as well as volunteering as a nurse.

He was registered with the NMC and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). In 2016, Nurse A was on an online dating application designed to be used for adults only and started an online conversation with a user. After brief introductions, Person B stated they were under the age of 16. The conversation continued over a number of days and Nurse A suggested that he swap photos with Person B and that they meet up at a recreational event in the local area.

When Nurse A attended the meeting point he was confronted by a group of paedophile hunters who create fake profiles of underage children on dating platforms and talk to adults with a view to arranging meetings. They confirmed that Person B was a fake profile set up by one of its members. They then detained Nurse A who was cautioned and arrested by the police. The conclusion of the police investigation led to no further action being taken.

At the hearing

Nurse A admitted to sending the messages, and the panel found his actions were improperly sexually motivated. It accepted that Nurse A was man of good character, with no previous adverse regulatory history, and that this supported his credibility. He had showed no propensity to act in an improper sexual manner in the past.

Nurse A was unable to provide satisfactory explanations for some elements of his conduct and state of mind at the time of the events and there were inconsistencies between his three written accounts about the events in question. The only inference the panel could properly draw from the messages and from Nurse A’s evidence was that his actions were sexually motivated.

The panel noted that there were discrepancies between his three statements and oral evidence. The panel considered that Nurse A’s responses to the messages were of a sexual nature and that, if he had truly skim-read the messages, Nurse A would not have responded in the way that he did. 

Nurse A apologised for his misconduct and informed the panel that his registration with the NMC was subject to an interim conditions of practice order. Nurse A kept up-to-date with clinical matters through discussions with family members who were nurse practitioners, and by reading literature about changes in guidelines. He also stated that he had completed training courses, including sessions focused on the importance of interpersonal skills, internet safety for kids and working in the voluntary sector. He stated that he had learnt from his mistakes and that they would never happen again. He told the panel that he had no sexual interest in children at all, having spent years looking after other people’s children as part of a job that he loved. The panel felt that his actions fell short of the standards expected of a registered nurse and breached the Code.

The panel considered that engaging in such an online conversation to be highly inappropriate for a registered nurse. The panel therefore found that Nurse A’s actions did fall seriously short of the conduct and standards expected of a nurse and amounted to misconduct. 

Results of the fitness-to-practise panel

The ftp panel can impose four different sanctions: 

  • Not impaired: the panel finds that the registrants’s fitness to practise is not impaired; therefore they can continue to practise
  • Caution: the nurse or midwife is cautioned for their behaviour, but is allowed to practise without restriction

  • Conditions of practice: this will prevent a registrant from carrying out certain types of work or working in a particular setting, it may require them to attend occupational health or do retraining. The order can be applied for up to three years and must be reviewed by an FTP panel again before expiry
  • Suspension: the nurse or midwife will be suspended from practice for a period of initially not longer than one year, but this can be extended after review by an FTP panel

  • Striking off: a nurse or midwife is removed from the register and not allowed to practise in the UK. The nurse or midwife must apply to be readmitted to the register

Share what you believe is the right action for the NMC panel to take below and then find out what they decided: Final panel decision and reasons

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