Tribunal reprimands registered nurse for working under the influence of alcohol

During the afternoon of 14 January 2021, registered nurse, Julie-Ann Joseph (the Practitioner), attended a social event during which she consumed alcohol. Later that evening, she commenced her work shift at Bunbury Regional Hospital (the Hospital) during which she attended to 8 patients. However, by 1:30am on 15 January 2021, she left her work shift early as she was feeling unwell.

As she drove home, she was pulled over by police who breathalysed her. She recorded a blood alcohol content that exceeded 0.08 and her drivers’ licence was suspended immediately.

She pleaded guilty to the offence before the Magistrates Court on 10 February 2021 and received a global fine of $500.00, a licence disqualification of seven months; and a costs order of $248.70.

On 14 May 2021, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the Board) decided to take immediate action under section 156(1)(a) of the National Law and suspended the Practitioner’s registration.

Her suspension was lifted after a period of over 6 months and the Board, having formed a reasonable belief that she had or may have had an impairment, imposed conditions on her registration before referring her to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (the Tribunal).

The Tribunal found that the Practitioner had engaged in professional misconduct in that she:

  1. was impaired and could not perform her professional duties and responsibilities in the manner essential to her profession, thus putting the safety of her clients, herself and her co-workers at risks (breaching the Code of Conduct, the Code of Ethics and the Standards for Practice);
  2. engaged in criminal conduct contrary to the Road Traffic Act 1974 of which she was found guilty;
  3. failed to act in accordance with the law (breaching the Code of Conduct and the Code of Ethics); and
  4. failed to maintain the standards of personal conduct which reflect well on the profession and enhance its image and public confidence, thereby, breaching the Code of Conduct and the Code of Ethics.

The Tribunal ordered that the Practitioner be reprimanded and have conditions imposed on her registration, including that she must complete a Board approved program of education.

In making its decision, the Tribunal took into account the following mitigating factors:

  1. the Practitioner pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court at the earliest opportunity;
  2. her registration was suspended for a period of over 6 months by way of immediate action;
  3. she had been subject to conditions requiring her to undertake breach alcohol testing at the commencement and completion of every period of practice (which she complied with);
  4. her conduct was an isolated event and she had no prior criminal history;
  5. she fully cooperated with her workplace investigation;
  6. she had reflected on the incident giving rise to the Tribunal proceedings, and had completed further education, including on the Code of Conduct;
  7. she continues to learn and grow and is open to all feedback given.

To reach the decision in Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Joseph [2022] VR 78, click here.

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