Nurse suspended for six months for record-keeping failures

NMC fitness to practise panel finds that agency nurse Chidinma Uzoma Onwuasoanya failed to complete care notes and care plan, and to record contact with patients
Photo of nurse entering records onto computer

NMC fitness to practise panel finds that agency nurse Chidinma Uzoma Onwuasoanya failed to complete care notes and care plan, and to record contact with patients

Picture: Tim Zoltie

An experienced nurse who made successive errors in record-keeping while working during the COVID-19 pandemic has been suspended for six months following a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing.

Chidinma Uzoma Onwuasoanya was found to have failed to complete care notes and a care plan, and to record contact with patients allocated to her in a temporary role at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Importance of accurate patient records

NMC counsel Scott Clair told the fitness to practise hearing, which concluded on 31 May, that the failures had put patients at unwarranted risk of harm, emphasising that accurate records are essential to keep patients safe.

Ms Onwuasoanya, who has been nursing for 31 years, was working as an agency nurse in a community psychiatric nurse care coordinator role in the adult eating disorder team at the trust between September and November 2020.

Her role involved reviewing patients with eating disorders and assessing their related risk, including their mood and self-harm. This included care planning, contacting GPs, patients and the treatment team at the hospital, and contributing to the patient review clinic.

Most of the caseload was managed virtually because of the pandemic and Ms Onwuasoanya was expected to record notes of every interaction with her patients in the Carenotes system within 24-48 hours. However, this did not happen.

Agency staff are ‘often thrown into chaotic situations’, nurse says

Concerns about Ms Onwuasoanya’s record-keeping came to light when she took a week off work in November 2020 and her caseload was allocated to other staff.

Although some initial IT problems had prevented access to the Carenotes system, these had been resolved by early October.

Ms Onwuasoanya gave evidence to the panel that she had made at least eight contacts with the IT department to resolve problems she was having accessing Carenotes. She expressed hope that her case would highlight issues relevant to nursing practice generally, and ‘demonstrate that agency nurses are often thrown into chaotic situations because they are not members of the department’.

Panel verdict and details of disciplinary action

However, although the panel acknowledged the technical issues and the challenging backdrop of the pandemic, it also found that Ms Onwuasoanya had not reflected on her misconduct and that there was a period of time when she did have access to the Carenotes system.

It said she had not demonstrated understanding of what she could do differently in future, or expressed remorse for the impact of her omissions and related risk to patients.

The panel said a six-month suspension order with a review was appropriate to allow Ms Onwuasoanya time to develop insight and understanding into her care failings.

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