11 Jan 2024
A nurse who inappropriately touched a female colleague on multiple occasions at work has been disqualified from re-applying for registration for 12 months and prohibited from providing any health service.
Content warning: Some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for confidential help. If you are a nurse, please visit Nurse & Midwife Support.
David Campese was referred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the NMBA) in June 2022 for conduct involving six separate incidents alleged to be unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct.
Mr Campese’s colleague (the complainant) and two hospital nurses gave evidence before the tribunal on 31 January and 1 February 2023.
In her evidence, the complainant described Mr Campese making sexually explicit gestures with his hands, face and tongue at her while at work.
In another incident, Mr Campese pressed two stickers onto her uniform over her breast area while both were rostered to work on a surgical procedure. Mr Campese, as the anaesthetic nurse, was expected to pass the ‘T-Doc’ stickers to the scout nurse (the complainant) for sterilisation tracking.
The tribunal heard about instances when Mr Campese slapped the complainant on the bottom and made comments along the lines of ‘you know you like it’ and grabbed her breast. The complainant gave evidence that when this happened, she said something like ‘don’t do that’.
The complainant also described Mr Campese standing behind her, placing his hands on her hips and moving her body in front of him in a sexually suggestive manner. Again, this was when they were both working on a surgical procedure and when preparing to lift an unconscious patient from the operating table to a bed.
Mr Campese and the complainant met through work and later became friends on Facebook Messenger. They engaged in consensual sexual intercourse on two occasions and remained friends afterward. The tribunal heard that they were not in a committed monogamous relationship.
The complainant gave evidence that it was after the second sexual encounter that Mr Campese became overly familiar with her and engaged in sexualised conduct, both verbal and physical, in the workplace which she said was unwanted and unwelcome.
The tribunal was shown sexually explicit messages Mr Campese and the complainant exchanged over a two-year period, including after she advised by message that she was happy he was seeing someone else.
Mr Campese denied all but one of the incidents and submitted that the National Law did not extend to the regulation of workplace behaviours, therefore making the matter one for his employer and not the NMBA.1
This was rejected by the tribunal who referred to processes in the National Law that ensure adequate safeguards are in place for the protection of the public, including vulnerable patients.
In March 2023, the tribunal found each of the six incidents proven and that Mr Campese’s conduct between November 2019 and May 2020 was professional misconduct by failing to maintain appropriate professional behaviour with a work colleague in breach of the codes of conduct and ethics for the nursing profession.
It described his conduct as ‘deplorable’ and something that should not be tolerated under any circumstances, let alone when health services are being provided. The tribunal was highly critical of Mr Campese’s conduct, stating that he was clearly unable to distinguish the boundaries between his private life and professional life, engaging in brazen and arrogant behaviour.
In November 2023, the tribunal ordered Mr Campese be:
The tribunal commented: ‘There was the potential for those patients’ care to be compromised either directly by Mr Campese, who was clearly distracted by the complainant’s presence rather than concentrating on his duties, or as a result of the distressing impact of his conduct on her.’
The tribunal recommended that consideration be given to requiring Mr Campese to complete education on professional ethics and boundaries if he seeks registration in the future. Mr Campese surrendered his registration on 18 August 2023.
Read on AustLII the tribunal’s findings of fact on 28 March 2023 and its final orders on 2 November 2023.
1 The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).