NMC places practice restrictions on nurse who presented a potential risk because of her limited English language skills

A Romanian nurse whose English language skills meant she was unable to communicate effectively in an emergency has had restrictions placed on her practice.

A Romanian nurse whose English language skills meant she was unable to communicate effectively in an emergency has had restrictions placed on her practice.

  • Rodica Olteanu found to have English language sills of a 9-11 year old
  • NMC panel found her standard of English was liable to put patients at 'unwarranted risk'
  • Panel places restrictions on nurse's practice for 12 months

Rodica Olteanu was found to have the English language skills of a child of 9-11 years, but was practising as a care home nurse.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise committee heard how her standard of English put a patient at potential risk when she was unable to understand questions being asked by an ambulance service operator.

Ms Olteanu was working at Ty Gwynno Nursing Home in Pontypridd, Wales, when a carer called an ambulance on 11 March last year to tend to a patient.

Unable to understand if a situation required an 'immediate threat to life response'

The call was passed to Ms Olteanu as the registered nurse but she was unable to understand some of the operator’s questions, including if the situation required an ‘immediate threat to life response’.

The panel found the language skills of Ms Olteanu, who is now living in Romania, meant she was ‘liable in the future to put patients at unwarranted risk of harm’ and so restrictions should be put on her practice until she reaches the appropriate level.

Following her referral to the NMC in April 2016, the regulator asked her to sit an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test in Romania. But Ms Olteanu failed to show up for the test in Bucharest in September 2016 saying she could not get time off from her new job.

NMC hearing
The Nursing and Midwifery panel decided that nurse Rodica Olteanu had failed to take the test when directed
to do so because she lacked the necessary knowledge of English. Picture: Charles Milligan

Scores were below what would be expected of a registered nurse

A witness, a lead adult preceptorship nurse, told the committee that Ms Olteanu had sat voluntary English and maths assessments when she joined University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.

However, after the NMC proceedings were launched, he discovered that her scores were below what would be expected of a registered nurse.

In fact, the standard was the level expected of a child of 9-11 years.

The lead preceptorship nurse said that as a registered nurse of over 30 years’ experience he did not believe a nurse ‘with test results this low could practise safely in an autonomous role’.

Panel places restrictions on practice for 12 months

In written submissions to the NMC, Ms Olteanu said she had successfully interviewed for her job and during her six months at the care home no one had complained about her standard of English.

She added that her colleague who also spoke to the operator had difficulty understanding some questions and that ‘the specific dialect had created certain misunderstandings’.

The panel placed restrictions on Ms Olteanu’s practice for 12 months including that she must be supervised at all times while working in the UK until she has taken and achieved the required pass level in an IELTS test.

The conditions of practice order means that for 12 months her entry in the NMC register will show up with details of this order.

Ms Olteanu must also notify the NMC within seven days of any nursing appointments in the UK or elsewhere and inform employers of the order.

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