Fake Nurses and Protected Title!
Last year in Western Australia a man accused of posing as a nurse at remote hospitals faced court. Nicholas Crawford of Darwin had claimed to be a registered nurse when he worked at a remote West Australian hospital over a two-week period. The court was told he was also alleged to have used forged documents to gain employment at the Aurukun Primary Health Centre on Cape York in far northern Queensland where he posed as a nurse for six weeks early in 2015. While facing charges in Western Australia, police were also investigating a case in the Northern Territory, where Crawford worked five shifts as an agency nurse in June 2014. Later in 2015 Crawford was brought to Cairns to face further charges.
In February this year an Adelaide woman who passed herself off as a registered nurse for five years was exposed as an imposter. Jennifer Anne Reed, 65 pleaded guilty to seven counts of deception by using the identity of a registered nurse to work at several aged care homes in South Australia between 2009 and 2014. It was reported that she stole the name and nursing details of a registered nurse and performed tasks including administering drugs and staff supervision. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) joined the case against her claiming she held herself out to be a Registered Nurse without authority, this lead to a further charge being laid against her -that of being an unregistered health professional using a particular title.
At the same time in Victoria a woman pleaded guilty to falsely claiming to hold registration as an enrolled nurse. Ms Artika Chand pleaded guilty to two charges filed by AHPRA in the Werribee Magistrates’ Court; that she had misused the protected title of ‘enrolled nurse’ and falsely claimed to be, or held herself out as being, a registered health practitioner, in relation to her employment at an aged care facility in Werribee, Victoria.
A number of cases with fake nurses in the UK and the USA have been reported in the media over the last few years. Historically, fraudulently calling yourself a nurse or claiming to be a credentialed nurse has been a fairly frequent occurrence particularly in home care situations.
Why I brought these three Australian cases forward is to reflect just how aggressively fraudulent claims of professional status are prosecuted and to highlight a legal point that many registered and enrolled nurses and midwives take for granted. Our professional title is a ‘protected title’.
Since 2010 the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme means all nurses and midwives are registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. This law is in force in every Australian state and territory. The key objective of the National Law is to provide for the protection of the public by ensuring that only health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified to practice in a competent and ethical manner are registered.
Only people who have met the requirements of the National Law can use a protected title. It is an offence for anyone either knowingly or recklessly to use any of the protected titles to make another person believe that you are registered under the National Law unless you are registered in the profession. To use these protected titles in contravention of this legislation is called ‘holding out’.
What this means is if a person or an employer claims staff are registered and they are not, this is an offence and can be prosecuted in a court.
The three cases above reported that identity theft or forgery allowed these fake nurses to get work as qualified nurses. Pre-employment checks are routine and no employer should skip any of the steps involved in good management hiring practice. Diligence and documentation while it may not expose a fraud at the time will protect the organisation should a fake later be exposed.
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