Nurses facing probes ‘stressed and suicidal’

Nurses and midwives who are subject to fitness-to-practise hearings are suffering stress, anxiety, and in extreme cases suicidal ideation and are in need of support, a union has warned.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation’s annual delegate conference yesterday heard that it spent €600,000 last year defending members in such cases.

Dr Edward Matthews, INMO director of social policy and regulation, told delegates in Cork that the organisation covers the cost of such proceedings for its members, and said the INMO membership fee is the “best value-for-money insurance scheme that I have ever seen in my life”.

He said a single fitness-to-practise case can cost up to €20,000 just for the preliminary process, and that if it goes to full hearing it can cost as much as €80,000.

Delegates backed a motion calling on the profession’s regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI), to offer supports to help members maintain their mental and physical health.

Dr Matthews referenced the motion in his address, and said the time taken to go to hearing is increasing and “the devastation experienced by our members is very concerning”.

“This is a reality colleagues. It is the worst time in people’s lives and it is perfectly common for us to encounter suicidal ideation, paranoia, depression, and anxiety as part of this process.

 

More must be done by both the Nursing and Midwifery Board and employers to support nurses and midwives who are the subject of regulation in this way. It can’t all fall to us to support people.

“Regulation is a fact of life, and we have to support those who are regulated as well as regulating them.

“We’re going to talk about pay later. When we’re talking about the starting pay of nurses and midwives, just remember this; the level of media coverage associated with a fitness-to-practise hearing is equivalent to someone going into the Central Criminal Court on a serious criminal charge.

“It will be dealt with on every national broadcaster, every local broadcaster, national print media and local print media.

“This is the type of environment that nurses and midwives exist in, that is the level of responsibility and accountability placed on the first day that you walk on the ward.

“Not because you’re there 10 years, not because you’re there 20 years, not because you’re the manager — the first day you walk in. And we should be remunerated in keeping with the level of responsibility and accountability, and that will be the subject of very serious discussion,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after his address, Dr Matthews said the INMO wants the regulator to support members as well as pursuing them through fitness-to-practise cases, a regime whereby such hearings are heard in private with the findings released to the public, and for a speedier resolution to such cases.

Meanwhile, members also backed a motion calling for a halt to the privatisation of home care services to the elderly and sick until the clinical governance of the services is agreed with the INMO.

One delegate became emotional as she spoke of the need to ensure standards are met, and said in some cases elderly patients are treated “worse than cattle at a cattle mart”.

If we don’t stand up for these people today, what are nurses and midwives for?” said Sandra Morton of the operating department nurses section said.

“We are the only people in this country stopping death.

“A very clear message needs to go back to the HSE and to Tony O’Brien.”


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