A nurse has had her registration suspended for two years after she told a 75-year-old man who was dying and in agony to “stop being dramatic”.

The man, who had undergone knee surgery in the days prior, died an hour later.

The nurse in charge of the man’s care was dismissed from her role following the incident, and her case was heard before the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal in July. The tribunal handed down its finding last week, determining the nurse will have her registration extended for a further six months, taking the suspension in total to two years.

After the incident, the nurse was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but she is now taking medication for the condition and her psychiatrist believes she is “fit to return to work”.

Secret film reveals horrifying behaviour

The incident under examination occurred five days after the man underwent elective knee surgery, when he experienced a bout of faecal incontinence. 

Two nurses, Breanna Lord and Jennifer Hogg, were responsible for the man’s care and showered him, but treated him so badly his roommate secretly filmed their behaviour on his mobile phone.

The roommate claimed the man said “I’m dying” on three or four occasions.

A transcript of the recording makes for “disturbing listening,” the tribunal’s citation on the decision says.

The man can be heard “groaning, moaning and repeatedly saying he was falling and fainting”.

“Stop being dramatic,” Ms Hogg can be heard saying. 

“It’s not life or death.”

“You’re not even close to dying so don’t even try,” she said.

“Stop being lazy.”

“You know how I know you’re not fainting? Because you are fainting forwards. If you faint you faint backwards.”

“It would have been a lot quicker if you’d stopped carrying on,” Ms Hogg is heard saying.

“Your behaviour is absolutely ridiculous,” she says.

“Nothing short of appalling”

During the hearing, Ms Hogg admitted the way she communicated with the patient during the shower was “nothing short of appalling”.

“Her tone was bullying, aggressive and belittling,” the tribunal said in its decision.

The nurse should have recognised the man was disoriented and in significant pain and acute distress, the tribunal said.

“The care exercised by Ms Hogg fell grossly below the relevant standard,” they said.

Ms Hogg also failed to provide the appropriate guidance to a newly graduated nurse who was assisting her.

“She does not pose a risk to patient safety”

The Health Care Complaints Commission hoped Ms Hoggs would have her nursing registration cancelled. But the tribunal concluded that suspending her registration for a further six months and placing conditions on her registration was the more appropriate penalty because they were of the view Ms Hogg is no longer a risk to the public, and they did not believe Ms Hogg would repeat the “offending conduct”.

Ms Hogg was diagnosed with bipolar after the incident and is now taking medication for the condition. Her psychiatrist said, in his view, Ms Hogg is fit to return to work so long as she continues taking medication.

The psychiatrist also said Ms Hogg is “deeply remorseful and apologetic for her conduct”.

The tribunal placed a number of conditions on Ms Hogg’s return to work as a nurse, including undergoing training for “ethical practice”.

A colleague told the tribunal Ms Hogg was in charge of a 30-bed hospital ward with “inadequate and inexperienced staff”, at the time of the incident.

Those in the caring professions must look after their mental health

Those in the caring professions often have greater compassion and empathy than the rest of us. We often hear how nurturing and supportive nurses and carers are in tending to their patients or, in aged care, residents, but, sadly, this is not always the reality, as this case demonstrates. 

Ms Hogg was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness at the time this incident occurred. If she had been properly treated, there could have been an entirely different outcome. 

Now she is taking the appropriate medication, her psychiatrist believes she is “fit to return to work as a nurse”, so long as she continues treatment. 

This case is an important reminder that all healthcare workers must, at times, give priority to their own health – including their mental health – if they wish to successfully continue caring for others.

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