Nurse scolded for affair with patient

A JUNIOR nurse working at a Taree hospital has been suspended for six months after having an affair with a terminally ill patient who made her a beneficiary in his will.

The Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal of NSW found the enrolled nurse guilty of professional misconduct earlier this month and published the result on Monday.

The nurse was also ordered to undergo an ethical boundaries course. The tribunal heard the enrolled nurse, 39, was working at Manning Base Hospital in Taree in April 2011 when she cared for the 44-year-old man who had chronic lung and liver diseases.

During his stay he was diagnosed with asbestos-related terminal mesothelioma.

After the man was discharged in early May the pair began a sexual relationship, moved in together and signed paperwork indicating they were in a de facto relationship.

By July the same year the relationship ended and the nurse moved into a women's refuge. The matter came to the attention of her manager after she needed leave following the break-up.

The tribunal heard that during the man's time in hospital he gave the nurse chocolates, which she refused.

After the man's discharge he pursued her with multiple phone calls.

"She . . . thought 'this would be OK' [if] he was no longer a patient," the tribunal heard.

The tribunal heard that on the night the man's mother died he went to the woman's house with champagne and cookies. The nurse later learned the cookies contained marijuana, and that was the night their physical relationship began.

When the woman moved into the man's house he insisted she become his legal de facto, legal guardian and made her a beneficiary to his will. The tribunal heard it was because he reportedly felt "indebted" to the nurse in exchange for her being there when he died. He retracted his decisions before he died in October that year.

The tribunal found the nurse demonstrated poor judgment and failed to recognise the patient was vulnerable.

"This case is a clear example of why it is essential for nurses and midwives to maintain the appropriate professional boundaries," the tribunal stated.

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