Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Tribunal suspends nurse who had sexual relationship with a former patient
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Tribunal suspends nurse who had sexual relationship with a former patient

16 Jan 2024

A nurse who had a sexual relationship with a former mental health patient has had her registration suspended for 12 months by a tribunal.

Alicia Jo Roche was referred by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the NMBA) to the Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in June 2023 for alleged professional misconduct by engaging in a personal and sexual relationship with a former mental health patient, shortly after the patient’s discharge from her care.

Ms Roche admitted the allegations during a mediated outcome before the tribunal in August 2023.

In 2017 Ms Roche was employed by a country health service as a Clinical Nurse in Mental Health. Registration brings with it professional obligations to comply with codes of conduct and ethics for the nursing profession.

Patient A was referred to the health service by his general practitioner (GP) in August 2017 and was assessed as having presented with suicidal ideation, anxiety and unresolved grief associated with the breakdown of his marriage and separation from his children.

Two months later, a psychiatrist reported diagnoses of a major depressive episode. Ms Roche was directly involved in Patient A’s treatment plan which included scheduling and/or rescheduling his psychiatric appointments, liaising with his GP and conferring with Patient A’s mother about his wellbeing.

Patient A was discharged from the health service in February 2018 and later returned as a patient for treatment for two other periods across 2018 and 2019.

In February/March 2018, Ms Roche accepted a Facebook friend request from Patient A before starting a sexual relationship in late March 2018. In October, the pair travelled to Indonesia together before the personal and/or sexual relationship ended a month later.

The tribunal found that by virtue of the therapeutic relationship with Patient A, Ms Roche was aware of his vulnerability and engaged in professional misconduct when breaching professional boundaries by engaging in an inappropriate personal and/or sexual relationship with him.

In September 2023, the tribunal ordered:

  • a reprimand
  • suspension of her registration for 12 months, and
  • conditions requiring Ms Roche to do education and mentoring about professional boundaries and ethics after the period of suspension, with a review period of 12 months.

Ms Roche was also ordered to pay $3,500 towards the Board’s costs. She has not practised as a nurse since July 2020. Her non-practising registration is currently suspended, as per the tribunal’s order.

Read the tribunal’s full decision on the eCourts Portal of Western Australia.

Page reviewed 16/01/2024