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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Care facility nurse handed suspension over ‘inappropriate’ patient relationship

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A psychiatric nurse who had a sexual relationship with a highly vulnerable patient has been stripped of her registration for three months. 

Jaclyn Stratton was working at Latrobe Regional Hospital’s residential care units in Victoria in 2018 when she became involved with the patient, who had borderline personality disorder, chronic suicidal ideation, and self-harming behaviours.

Their inappropriate relationship carried on for about six months, but when Stratton was confronted in an interview about it, she lied and said they had only a relatively short-lived friendship and that it was over.

In reality, Stratton had maintained regular contact with the patient, went on outings with the woman and her children, been intimate with her, and let her visit her home. 

The extent of their relationship came to light when the patient reported it, fearing her care at the hospital would be jeopardised. 

Stratton was regularly involved in the woman’s care for about three months of their relationship. 

The nurse’s lies impaired the hospital’s ability to protect the patient from further harm and give appropriate care and treatment, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found. 

“In our view, by concealing the truth, Stratton put self-protection first and the needs of the patient last,” tribunal members said.

In a statement to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, Stratton said she felt terrified and trapped, and continued her relationship with the patient out of fear the woman would self-harm.

She kept in touch with the patient after their intimate relationship ended, she said, out of fear of what might happen. 

Stratton claimed she admitted to a superior that she was in love with the patient, and the superior effectively advised her to lie about the extent of the relationship.

The tribunal had no way of knowing whether that was true, the members said.

“As Ms Stratton recognised, she alone is responsible for not being truthful with (the hospital),” they said.

The nurse described her conduct as “horrible, utterly atrocious behaviour”.

She now works as a midwife at Warragul Hospital, and as a nurse in aged care at Latrobe Valley Village. 

The tribunal members ordered that Stratton’s registration be suspended for three months.

The suspension would have been longer had she not co-operated, or worked outside the high-need maternity and aged care services.


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