Disciplinary Proceedings: nurse made ‘scapegoat’

A ruling against a nurse at a disciplinary hearing at the Ontario College of Nurses raises concerns over practices that are common place within a working environment, but where one individual is allegedly singled out and penalised.  Rogerson Law Group are highly experienced in Professional Misconduct and Disciplinary Hearings matters across a wide range of professions.

In this case, a nurse was fired for inappropriately accessing the medical records of around 1300 patients over a lengthy period of time.  However, she is reported to have claimed that what she did was common practice, and has been made a scapegoat for deficient management practices in relation to the proper handling of patient records.  She also claims to have not known that what she did breached any policy until she was made subject to disciplinary proceedings.

The nurse had, the College’s discipline committee found, “committed professional misconduct in that she contravened the standards of practice of the profession and engaged in dishonourable and unprofessional conduct by accessing the personal health information of approximately 1,300 patients without consent or authorization between 2004 and 2013”.

The nurse’s certificate of registration was suspended for a five-month period.  Her application for reinstatement at an arbitration hearing was refused, however, it was admitted at that hearing that the complaint against the nurse was not proven – and the decision to dismiss her was based on an audit of records management.

What does this mean?

Health professionals must comply with policies and procedures.  However, employers should ensure their employees receive proper training and, where necessary, updates on changes in policies.  Where misconduct can be shown to be directly related to serious failings in the employer’s management systems, the outcome of disciplinary proceedings could be in the employee’s favour.

Whilst discrimination was not at issue in this case, in circumstances where an employer is singled out for disciplinary action for activity other individuals are also undertaking – there could be a potential discrimination claim and or unfair dismissal claim.

If you are facing issues with the medical or other licensing authorities, contact our experienced Professional Misconduct and Disciplinary Tribunals lawyers at Rogerson Law Group for urgent advice and assistance.

Rogerson Law Group provides professional misconduct and disciplinary proceedings services in the entire GTA including Toronto, Scarborough, Mississauga, Vaughan, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, and Barrie and surrounding areas with offices located in downtown Toronto, Barrie, and an associated office Ottawa.

Contact us now at enquiries@rogersonlaw.com