Mental health nurse who messaged his teen patient violated boundaries | #socialmedia | #children

A mental health nurse has been found to have breached professional and ethical boundaries after he contacted a patient in his teens on social media.

The nurse had sent inappropriate messages to the young man including a request for a selfie in his pyjamas, according to a report released on Monday.

Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Dr Vanessa Caldwell found the patient was vulnerable because of his age and mental health.

The nurse had been providing mental health care to the patient for eight months after he was referred to the service by his school counsellor.

The mental health services included including face-to-face intervention, psycho-education, coordination of services including referral to a private psychologist, and ongoing risk assessment.

During their therapeutic relationship, the nurse had reached out to the patient on Facebook and sent several suggestive messages.

The patient raised concerns about the messages to his mother, who then contacted the general manager of the mental health service.

“The power imbalance between the nurse and young man persisted beyond the termination of the therapeutic relationship, given the nurse’s knowledge of the young man’s personal circumstances and mental health,” Caldwell said.

In the decision, Caldwell noted “the maintenance of professional boundaries is an integral part of the provision of health services”.

Caldwell recommended the nurse undertake training on maintaining professional boundaries.

She also proposed the mental health service to carry out an audit on the nurse’s other cases to “ensure there were no other cases of professional boundaries being crossed”.

The case has been referred to the Nursing Council of New Zealand, who will consider the fitness of the nurse to continue to practice.

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