Jul 10, 2024

Nurse Reprimanded for Aggression Towards Elderly Patients

Nurse Reprimanded for Aggression Towards Elderly Patients
The claims against Mr Dickerson include an incident in March 2021, where he “manhandled” a resident with Parkinson’s disease. [iStock].

A Queenstown nurse has been officially reprimanded and temporarily removed from practice for using excessive force against frail, elderly patients.

Four allegations against Peter Graham Dickerson have been substantiated, with his aggressive behaviour amounting to professional misconduct, according to a recent decision by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The claims against Mr Dickerson include an incident in March 2021, where he “manhandled” a resident with Parkinson’s disease, forcefully grabbing him with both hands and shoving him towards his room. Later the same day, Mr Dickerson grabbed the man by his forearms and pushed him towards his bed.

Following these incidents, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) was notified, and Mr Dickerson was charged with assault and suspended on full pay.

Although he was later acquitted in the Magistrates Court, a prior tribunal decision allowed him to practise again, but only under the supervision of another health practitioner.

Earlier this year, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia took further action against Mr Dickerson, alleging professional misconduct and raising additional historical allegations.

In April 2019, while working as a graduate registered nurse, Mr Dickerson was found to have unsafely moved an elderly patient with dementia and osteoarthritis, causing the patient to fall heavily into an armchair.

Mr Dickerson was also found to have engaged in unprofessional communication on several occasions, including speaking aggressively to a nurse in October 2018 and to a patient in March 2021, as well as “goading” a colleague about making a complaint.

In May this year, Mr Dickerson agreed to the allegations and accepted three forms of punishment: a reprimand, cancellation of his registration, and a three-month disqualification from reapplying for registration. However, he later emailed the tribunal, stating that he had agreed only to avoid a hearing due to his inability to endure what he described as AHPRA’s “unlawful, unprofessional and unethical conduct.” He claimed that the proceedings had left him homeless, considering bankruptcy, and suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal ideation.

Despite his claims that his actions caused no harm and there was no victim, tribunal deputy president Alison Clues stated that Mr Dickerson’s conduct towards the patient with Parkinson’s disease was “lacking in compassion, undermining, disrespectful and did not promote the dignity and human rights of the patient.”

Regarding the 2019 incident, she emphasised that the patient “was entitled to feel safe and protected” and that Mr Dickerson’s behaviour constituted a breach of trust.

“Unsafe behaviour directed towards an elderly vulnerable patient is unacceptable conduct,” Ms Clues said, adding that “the treatment of persons in aged care and elder abuse is a sensitive issue, and people who cannot complain or defend themselves from unsafe conduct need to be protected.”

Ms Clues also described instances of Mr Dickerson’s verbal communication as “belittling, degrading, unprofessional and inappropriate in an aged care facility.” As a result, Mr Dickerson has been barred from working in aged or disability care until he successfully re-registers as a health practitioner.

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  1. This man is definitely in the wrong business. No excuse for him. But I will say one thing. Looking after the elderly has alot of challenges and pressures on staff. There never seems to be enough staff. Alot of RNs and CMs do not want to deal with issues when staff bring them up at meetings. You have people calling out all night even when you are helping them. We have aggressive residents who due to their dementia cannot be showered and kick and push and bite the staff and therefore the resident has to be left in an unhygienic state, sometimes for days. The fact that some residents are 3 assist or more should tell anyone that there is a fine line between care and physical restraint for that resident. The pressure on all staff to do do hygiene cares is off the wall. So many dementia residents who are mostly beautiful souls but there are a good few who add angst to the daily work of all workers. We only want the best for our residents but the pressure on all staff and carers seems to be getting worse. Abuse of residents is not acceptable under any conditions. It is best to walk away and refer issues to the RNs and CMs. Always hold your head high and know that you did the best you could under the circumstances of such challenging situations and if the following shift of staff are upset that someone hasn’t been dressed or showered, well that is the nature of the work. At least nobody has been harmed.

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