An Australian tribunal has said a historic act of patient misconduct by a nurse at a Victorian aged care home outlined why the public had little faith in our aged care sector.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found a nurse of three decades, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was on shift as a manager in 2019 when she spat on a resident with dementia and directed “vulgar” language towards junior staff.
The nurse’s actions were found to be professional misconduct against the new Code of Conduct for Aged Care and were said to be the type of actions that undermined the public’s confidence in the nursing profession.
The new Code officially came into effect in December, providing aged care workers and providers with a legislated set of guidelines to adhere to while delivering services to older people.
“Persons in the resident’s position cannot complain or defend themselves from such conduct,” the Tribunal said in their decision.
“The treatment of persons in aged care and elder abuse is a sensitive issue and vulnerable people need to be protected.
“The aged care facility is their home where they should feel safe and protected.”
Prior to her shift, the nurse was warned the resident had a tendency to spit and refuse her food. While the nurse was doing medication rounds, the resident spat at her twice and the nurse claimed some spittle landed in her mouth.
The Tribunal found that the nurse spat back at the resident’s face and said words to the effect of, “maybe this is how we should deal with them”.
The nurse then went into a room where there was two other residents and another Enrolled Nurse (EN), who she was responsible for supervising, who heard her using inappropriate language which made the EN uncomfortable.
The nurse’s “vulgar” comments concerned Tribunal members who said it demonstrated an unacceptable attitude towards aged care residents, especially those who cannot speak for themselves such as those with serious dementia.
“[She] had time to consider how to prepare for the risk and how to respond to it. Rather than retreat, [she] retaliated,” said the Tribunal.
“[Her] conduct and words, regarding a vulnerable resident with dementia, was undermining, disrespectful and did not promote the dignity and human rights of the resident. It was absent compassion.”
The tribunal cancelled the nurse’s registration for two years, prohibiting her from providing health services to anyone at that time.