28 Apr 2022
A tribunal has ordered the cancellation of an enrolled nurse’s registration after he breached professional boundaries by forming sexual relationships with his patients.
Trigger warning: Some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress, please visit the NM Support website or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.
Between 2014 and 2015, Mr Darren Laycock was working in a psychiatric unit within a private hospital and, during the period of March to August 2015, breached professional boundaries with two female inpatients.
Mr Laycock’s conduct included inappropriately communicating with the patients, arranging to meet them outside the hospital and engaging or attempting to engage in sexual activity with them (within the hospital and at other locations, including his home).
In August 2015, both patients gave statements to the police and the allegations were referred to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and subsequently the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). Mr Laycock’s registration was immediately suspended, and he has not worked as a nurse since.
Mr Laycock was arrested and charged with offences against both patients, with charges being withdrawn in mid-2017. The NMBA then referred Mr Laycock to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in September 2018.
At the conclusion of the final hearing on March 2022, the tribunal found that Mr Laycock had engaged in professional misconduct and ordered that Mr Laycock:
The tribunal stated that Mr Laycock’s conduct was “abhorrent and exploitative and will not be tolerated.”
“These determinations are intended to send a very clear message, particularly to male nurses working in psychiatric settings, that absolute professionalism is expected at all times with an unwavering focus on the therapeutic needs of patients. Nurses must not develop personal or intimate relationships with their patients”.
Strictly adhering to those expectations, as opposed to engaging in conduct of the kind in issue, will protect and enhance the confidence patients should have in seeking and receiving treatment for their mental health conditions. The tribunal concluded that they had no basis to assume that Mr Laycock is now or is likely in the foreseeable future to be fit to practise as a nurse.
The tribunal’s decision was published on 4 March 2022 with reasons updated on 22 March 2022. The decision is available on the Austlii website.