Director of Proceedings v McMillan
Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, 634/Nur14/274D, (18 June 2014)
The Director of Proceedings laid a charge against mental health nurse, Jason McMillan, in the Health Practitioner's Disciplinary Tribunal concerning an inappropriate relationship he commenced with a patient in 2010. Mr McMillan accepted that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct. The Tribunal found that the charge of professional misconduct had been made out and cancelled Mr McMillan's registration as a nurse.
Mr McMillan had been providing care to a young female in-patient of a mental health in-patient unit (MHIPU). Mr McMillan gave the patient his cell phone number shortly after her admission to the MHIPU and began sending text messages to her. Shortly after her discharge from the MHIPU, Mr McMillan asked to meet with the patient. They met for two coffee dates within two weeks of her discharge from hospital. The patient then moved to another city. Mr McMillan visited the patient shortly after her move and stayed with her at her hostel. At that visit Mr McMillan and the patient kissed for the first time. The relationship progressed to an intimate relationship where the patient recalled Mr McMillan performing oral sex on her. Mr McMillan denied doing so on that occasion.
The intimate relationship continued for a period of seven months. Mr McMillan had oral sex and sexual intercourse with the patient and sent her sexually explicit text messages throughout that time. Mr McMillan watched the movie "Sucker Punch" with the patient. The movie is set in a mental asylum and involves attempts of the lead character "baby-doll" to escape the asylum where she is subjected to violence and sexual exploitation before she is lobotomised by the keeper of the asylum, "Blue". Mr McMillan referred to the patient by the name "baby-doll" through text messages and emails shortly after the pair had watched the movie.
The patient's mental wellbeing at the time was such that she required ongoing mental health care, including in-patient care. The patient informed Mr McMillan that she had been admitted to hospital again at which point he ceased communicating with her for a period, citing his inability to cope with the patient's mental health as the reason for withdrawing contact.
The patient eventually informed her key worker of the relationship with Mr McMillan at which point the relationship ceased.
The Tribunal found that that Mr McMillan's early contact with the patient was laying the ground for the increasing contact after the patient's discharge from hospital which lead to the sexual relationship.
"Inappropriate relationships normally start with small things and lead to greater things; and that was definitely the case in the content of the conversations and the number of text messages that occurred."
The Tribunal noted how inappropriate it is for health professionals, including nurses, to maintain personal relationships with patients after the patient's discharge from hospital and found that cancellation of Mr McMillan's registration was the only appropriate penalty. The Tribunal also imposed conditions on Mr McMillan's practice should he ever wish to resume practice and imposed costs.
The Tribunal's decision can be found at: https://www.hpdt.org.nz/Charge-Details?file=Nur14/274D
Last reviewed February 2019