Nurse told dying man 'stop being dramatic'

Luke Costin

A nurse has been suspended for six months after being secretly filmed saying "stop being dramatic ... you're not going to collapse" to an elderly NSW patient who died an hour later.

Jennifer Hogg, aged in her mid-20s, admitted she acted inappropriately when treating the 75-year-old patient at Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital.

Five days post-knee surgery, the man repeatedly complained of cramping, pain, nausea and fatigue the night of his death in February 2017.

Ignored, he made a request about 9pm for a bedpan.

Ms Hogg - the ward's nurse-in-charge - refused and insisted he walk to the toilet. When he soiled the bed and required showering, Ms Hogg scolded him.

So concerned was the patient's roommate that he covertly recorded the nurse for 20 minutes - a tape the NSW Civil Administrative Tribunal described as "disturbing" on Friday.

In it, Ms Hogg says "you're not even close to dying so don't even try" and "stop it, you need to start participating" as the patient groans and pants.

"You know how I know you're not fainting? Because you are fainting forwards," Ms Hogg tells the man.

"If you faint, you faint backwards."

She is later heard saying it would've been a lot quicker if "you'd stopped carrying on, so stop telling us to hurry".

When the man urged the nurses to hurry as he was going to collapse, Ms Hogg raised her voice and said: "You're not going to collapse. Stop it."

When the man struggled to get back into bed about 10pm, she scolded him again about not being "bothered to stand up".

Minutes later, he was found unresponsive. He was declared dead after 20 minutes of CPR with his cause of death later put down to coronary heart disease on a background of co-morbidities.

At the tribunal, Ms Hogg conceded her communications was "nothing short of appalling" and her tone had been bullying, aggressive and belittling.

NCAT said the "entirely unacceptable" statements likely gave the patient the impression that because he'd elected to have knee surgery, he wasn't entitled to voice complaints of pain and discomfort.

It should have been clear to someone of Ms Hogg's experience that he was disoriented and experiencing significant pain and acute distress, the tribunal said.

"While we accept Ms Hogg's claim that she too was probably distressed and anxious that Patient A might fall, her conduct was nonetheless entirely inappropriate," NCAT said on Friday.

"It demonstrated that the care exercised by Ms Hogg fell grossly below the relevant standard."

Ms Hogg - who was just two years out of university - was suspended shortly after the incident.

Had that suspension not happened, NCAT said it would have heeded the Health Care Complaints Commission's call for her to be deregistered.

Instead, her suspension was extended until May 29, 2020.

Extensive conditions were placed on her registration for two years, including barring her from night duty or shifts where she's in charge of a ward.

The tribunal on Friday reprimanded another nurse involved in the patient's care that night, Breanna Lord.