Today’s correspondent provides a link to a story out of the UK: Ian Snug and Esther Beadle ‘Newly-elected MP falsely claims he is a ‘mental health nurse’’ NursingNotes (Online) 13 December 2019 and asks ‘Would the situation be different in Australia?’
The gist of the story is that newly elected MP ‘Ian Levy claims in a series of pre-election social media posts that he works as a full-time “mental health nurse” with 30 years in the NHS’. He is not however a registered nurse but ‘a healthcare assistant on an inpatient mental health rehabilitation unit’. The story says ‘Only the term “Registered Nurse” is a protected title, so while many claim his actions are misleading, they do not violate the Nurses Registration Act.’
With that context I infer that my correspondent’s question is really would similar behaviour violate the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. Section 113 of the National Law says:
(1) A person must not knowingly or recklessly—
(a) take or use a title in the Table to this section, in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered under this Law in the health profession listed beside the title in the Table, unless the person is registered in the profession, or
(b) take or use a prescribed title for a health profession, in a way that could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered under this Law in the profession, unless the person is registered in the profession.
For nursing the protected titles (s 113(1)(a)) are ‘nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, enrolled nurse’. The protected ‘title for a health profession’ (s 113(1)(b)) is ‘nursing’.
I have previously argued that the use of descriptors such as ‘student’ or ‘retired’ would not breach the Act (see NSW students and retired officers referred to as ‘paramedic’ (August 14, 2019)). Calling oneself a ‘student nurse’ or ‘retired nurse’ (or paramedic) seems to me to be explicitly trying to indicate that the person is not registered. That is putting ‘student’ or ‘retired’ in front of nurse (or paramedic) could not ‘be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered…’
The same is not true with the addition of words like ‘mental health’ or other words that may suggest a speciality (eg ‘emergency nurse’, ‘palliative care nurse’, ‘aged-care nurse’ etc). In fact s 113(3) says the offence can be proved ‘whether or not the title is taken or used with or without any other words’. Adding the words ‘mental health’ before the word ‘nurse’ does not detract from the fact that the person is using the protected title ‘nurse’.
We are told in the UK story that ‘‘Only the term “Registered Nurse” is a protected title…’ That is not the case in Australia where the term ‘nurse’ is also a protected title. If a person used the term ‘nurse’, whether with or without other words such as ‘mental health’ then he or she commits an offence if the circumstances in which they used the title ‘nurse’ ‘could be reasonably expected to induce a belief the person is registered’ under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
In short, the situation would be different in Australia.