The woman admitted all three dishonesty charges, and pleaded with the tribunal to give her a second chance. Photo / 123rf
A nurse has been struck off for lying to a tribunal in a desperate bid to save her job, posing as her boss on email and writing a glowing reference letter for herself.
The woman, whose name is suppressed for now, was convicted of stealing and her registration was on the line at the time.
“I was desperate,” she told the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal today, her second appearance on successive dishonesty charges.
She was working as a nurse several years ago when she was convicted of theft, and was later suspended from nursing by the same tribunal for the offending.
What the tribunal didn’t know at the time, however, was that during the Nursing Council investigation and subsequent hearing, she created a fake email address, sent them false emails posing as her then-employer, including a fake reference letter.
Handing in a glowing reference letter attesting to her integrity and reliability, honesty and transparency while under investigation was “plainly false and misleading”, said Helen de Montalk, lawyer for the Council’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).
The woman’s lawyer at the time was also drawn into her deceit, de Montalk said. The nurse had used the same fake email address to communicate with her lawyer pretending to be her boss, she said. The PCC had no reason to doubt the woman’s word, given under oath at tribunal.
“You swore at your last hearing that you would tell the truth,” de Montalk said.
“The whole reason we’re here today is because of your continued dishonesty.”
Her deceit was only revealed after the employer read a Herald news report about the nurse’s suspension and complained to the council, according to the PCC.
De Montalk said public health professionals are expected to be honest and the woman had shown a high level of dishonesty to her employer, the tribunal and the public.
At the hearing, the woman admitted all three dishonesty charges laid against her, and pleaded with the tribunal to give her a second chance.
“I was desperate. I had letters from many people except the people I worked for,” she said. Her world had fallen apart when she was charged with theft, and she made a mistake she has regretted ever since.
“When you tell one lie you have to tell another,” she said, in tears, explaining why she denied misleading the tribunal at first.
Her lawyer David Fleming told the tribunal she had completed an ethics course in December last year where she has learned a lot, and was willing to do whatever the tribunal asked of her – even though she was still in debt and was unable to pay a large fine.
“If I can’t be a nurse anymore everything will be over,” she said.
At the end of the one-day hearing, tribunal chair Royden Hindle ordered the cancellation of her nursing registration but made no order relating to costs.
Her interim name suppression is due to lapse 30 days after a written decision is issued, unless she appeals.