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Unamed Member RN
Allegations and Plea
The College alleged that the Member failed to respond appropriately to a report of sexual abuse of a client, and that this conduct would be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.
The Member denied the allegations and a hearing was held.
The Client had undergone an abdominal hysterectomy and had vaginal bleeding, discharge and swelling. Nurse A provided care on the night shift and Nurse B provided care on the following day shift. Both nurses performed catheterizations. The Member was the charge nurse on the day shift.
After Nurse B’s catheterization, the Client became upset and teary. She told Nurse B that, when Nurse A performed a catheterization the previous evening, he pulled the covers down very low and had the Client open her legs so that she was exposed. He did not provide her with mesh pants, as Nurse B had done, and he touched the Client’s clitoris.
The Client testified that she told Nurse B that Nurse A had touched her inappropriately. Nurse B testified that the Client did not use such language. Nurse B did not appreciate that the Client’s complaint was of sexual abuse; Nurse B interpreted the complaint as related to the manner in which Nurse A performed the procedure as compared to the manner in which Nurse B performed the same procedure.
The Client and Nurse B both testified that Nurse B asked whether the Client wanted to speak to the charge nurse, that the Client declined, and that the Client said she did not want Nurse A to be her nurse. Nurse B did not ask for any more information, and advised that she would talk to the charge nurse (i.e., the Member) and that Nurse A’s assignment would be changed.
Nurse B and the Member both testified that Nurse B told the Member, among other things, that the Client thought that Nurse A had touched her clitoris during catheterization. Nurse B did not make reference to inappropriate touching. Nurse B told the Member that the Client had twice declined the offer to speak with the charge nurse.
The Member testified that Nurse B was a senior nurse with many years’ experience, who had often taken the charge nurse role herself. The Member relied on Nurse B’s judgment. At the end of their conversation, the Member believed that the Client’s complaint was that she did not want a male nurse. This was a common request.
The Member testified that, during catheterization, it is not unusual for a nurse to touch a client’s clitoris. This was confirmed by every nurse who testified, including the nursing expert witnesses. The Member added that it is common for women who have undergone a hysterectomy to be upset after surgery.
Nurse B and the Member checked the schedule and confirmed that Nurse A was not assigned to the Client that evening, so there was no need for reassignment. When Nurse A arrived for his shift, the Member told him that the Client was upset that he did not provide mesh pants, that he exposed her too much by pulling the blanket down too far, that he flopped her legs open, and that he might have touched her clitoris during catheterization.
The next day, the Client spoke to a social worker at the facility. The social worker reported to the nurse manager, who initiated an investigation at the facility and made a report of sexual abuse of the Client to the College. Until then, the Member had no idea that the complaint was sexual in nature.
Both the College and the Member had experts testify about what would be expected if a Client reported being upset after a male nurse touched her clitoris during catheterization and no longer wanted the male nurse to provide care.
The Panel found that the evidence on the whole was not sufficiently clear, cogent and convincing to support findings of professional misconduct as alleged.
The Panel did not find that the Client told Nurse B that she had been touched inappropriately. This language does not appear in notes taken by various professionals who spoke with the Client. As a result, Nurse B did not use this language when speaking to the Member.
The case turned on credibility. The Panel observed that the Client admittedly had no concept of time during the alleged incident, and that she was emotionally distraught about matters unrelated to the complaint itself. She was also medicated. Various inconsistencies in her testimony undermined the reliability of her evidence. Although her recollection was wrong on a number of points, she insisted that her recollection was correct. She did not admit the possibility that her memory was wrong. The Client’s recollection of the details and order of events differed in many respects from Nurse B’s evidence, which was supported in the chart.
The Panel also noted that the Client did not wish to speak to the charge nurse on two occasions.