Nurses struck off for abusing patients and stealing drugs
FOURTEEN nurses have been struck off the register in the past two years for professional misconduct or being unfit to work, new figures show.
Growing numbers of nurses are having sanctions imposed, including being removed from the register, for a range of offences such as abuse of patients, theft of drugs and turning up to work drunk.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent show that the number of applications for fitness to practise inquiries into nurses has risen from 29 in the late '90s to 59 last year.
There have been 34 formal inquiries over the past two years into nurses for alleged misconduct or unfitness to work by their regulatory body, An Bord Altranais.
A spokesperson for the body said the biggest source of complaints against other nurses are nurse managers and in some cases the board itself takes the case.
So far all of the inquiries have been held behind closed doors, but under new legislation going through the Oireachtas the hearings will have to be heard in public.
The inquiries have revealed disturbing behaviour including:
- A male nurse was struck off for regularly hugging or kissing residents in a nursing home. He had inappropriate physical contact with a resident lying in her bed while she was naked. And on another occasion he had inappropriate sexual contact with her and on more than one instance he was on duty while under the influence of alcohol. He was struck off by order of the High Court in December.
- A female nurse was struck off for being unfit for duty after taking methadone. The nurse took methadone and tranquillisers meant for a patient.
- A female nurse attempted to wake a patient by "pulling the hairs on her legs" and instructed non-nursing staff to kick the patient in the legs so that she would eat.
- A male nurse was struck off for speaking to the family of a patient about his condition outside hospital in an exaggerated fashion, causing them unnecessary stress and anxiety.
- A female nurse had conditions attached to her registration for being unfit for work due to drugs or drink. She was unable to account for missing medication and was unsteady on her feet, making it difficult to recall patients' names.
Asked to comment on the figures Claire Treacy, Director of Social Policy at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said the number of nurses undergoing inquiries is still small relative to their numbers.
She said it was important that cases where a nurse has a drug or drinks problem should not be the subject of a fitness to practice inquiry that is held in public.
"Nurses are highly regarded in society and I think that is partly because there is a robust fitness to practise system in place. It is important that the profession retains that high regard."