000 days

since the NMC committed to investigate its ‘established procedures’. We’re still watching!

Case Study 17: Second victim

May 1, 2023 | Case Studies, Fitness to Practice | 0 comments

Healthcare professionals, including those registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), dedicate their lives to caring for others.
However, when an allegation of misconduct is made against them, they can become what is known as the “second victim” in the fitness to practice proceedings. This can have a significant impact on their mental health, and it is essential that the NMC takes steps to support them during this challenging time.

Sarah (we changed names and some details) is a registered nurse who has been working in a busy hospital for the past five years. She is passionate about her job and has always been well-regarded by her colleagues and patients. One day, a patient accuses Sarah of not
administering their medication correctly, leading to an adverse reaction. Sarah is shocked by the allegation and adamant that she did nothing wrong. However, the hospital follows protocol and reports the incident to the NMC.

The NMC launches an investigation into the matter and informs Sarah that she is under review. Sarah is devastated by the news and begins to worry about the impact it will have on her career and reputation. She struggles to sleep at night, and her anxiety levels begin to soar. Sarah’s colleagues notice a change in her behaviour, and she becomes
increasingly withdrawn and irritable.

Months pass, and the NMC continues its investigation. Sarah attends several hearings and is forced to relive the incident repeatedly. She feels like her entire life is under scrutiny, and the stress begins to take its toll. Sarah’s mental health deteriorates further, and she
experiences panic attacks and depression.

The damage has already been done, and Sarah’s mental health has suffered as a result of the prolonged investigation.

Finally, the NMC reaches its verdict, and Sarah is cleared of any wrongdoing. However, the damage has already been done, and Sarah’s mental health has suffered as a result of the prolonged investigation.
She feels like she has been treated unfairly and that her reputation has been tarnished. Sarah is unsure if she can ever return to her job with the same level of enthusiasm and commitment.

Being accused of misconduct can be a traumatic experience, and the lengthy investigation process can exacerbate the situation. The NMC needs to recognise the impact this has on the mental health of healthcare professionals and take steps to mitigate it. Proceedings proven or otherwise are still far too long and too adversarial.

One approach is to provide support services to professionals undergoing fitness to practice proceedings. This could include access to counselling and mental health services, as well as guidance on how to cope with the stress of the investigation. It is also important for the NMC to communicate with professionals clearly and frequently throughout the process, to reduce uncertainty and anxiety.

It is essential that the NMC takes steps to support healthcare professionals during this challenging time.

Healthcare professionals registered with the NMC who are subject to fitness to practice proceedings can be the “second victim” in some situations. These proceedings themselves, even when “no case to answer” is the outcome, can have a significant impact on their mental health, and it is essential that the NMC takes steps to support them during this challenging time. The provision of support services and clear communication throughout the process are crucial in ensuring that professionals are treated fairly and with compassion.

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