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BC nursing regulator tried to punish nurse already disciplined in Alberta

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The BC nursing regulator has tried to suspend an Alberta nurse practitioner for professional misconduct even though it took place out of province and has already been dealt with by the Alberta regulator.

The case involves nurse practitioner Sarah Hennings who was fined $5,000 and suspended for three months in 2022 after she admitted to the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta of various breaches of professional misconduct.

Henning admitted to the Alberta authorities she'd prescribed drugs to eight friends and family, and given pain medication and sedatives to a 60-year-old neighbour with a complex health history, among other things.

However, because Hennings was also registered in British Columbia, although she doesn't work or live here, the BC regulator wanted to take disciplinary action against her and suspend her BC licence for 90 days.

In a June 10 BC College of Nurses and Midwives decision, Hennings described the regulator's actions as "going to jail twice for the same crime."

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According to the decision, Hennings' dealings with the Alberta regulator started in 2021 after a complaint was received about her. A pattern of behaviour emerged and she later admitted to a variety of professional misconduct allegations.

Henning admitted to prescribing antibiotics to her sister and stated in hindsight she should have watched her sister's kids so her sister could drive across town and go to the walk-in clinic to get a prescription instead.

She also admitted to accessing the records of 179 of her patients from her laptop without authorization. She'd also given her 60-year-old neighbour 14 medications while not at work.

Henning had also made a couple of other privacy breaches and had admitted to unprofessional conduct for failing to collaborate with colleagues.

"Ms Hennings explained the circumstances which led to her repeated unprofessional conduct were 'always the same,' she believed she was working in the best interests of the patients and wanted to impress her employer," the decision read.

The decision said she was in an abusive relationship at the time and has taken responsibility for her actions and was remorseful.

The Albertan regulator noted that while Hennings wrote prescriptions for friends and family she didn't bill for the service, and she had never prescribed anything for herself or acted fraudulently.

Along with the $5,000 fine and 90-day suspension, the Alberta regulator also requires Hennings to take hundreds of hours of supervised practice and complete a 4,000-word paper on ethics, among other restrictions.

In contrast, the BC nursing regulator recently suspended two BC nurses for four and six months for duping more than $20,000 out of their employers by fiddling their timesheets. Neither was fined.

Multiple other BC nurses who have been caught swiping narcotics from work and using them have faced disciplinary action from being placed on conditions to being suspended for a few months. Again, none have been fined. Recently, a BC nurse was reprimanded after seven years of poor performance on the job.

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While Hennings had adhered to all the conditions issued by the Albertan regulator, the BC regulator still wanted a suspension.

However, the regulator's discipline committee panel didn't agree.

"(Hennings) has already been punished in the jurisdiction where the conduct occurred," the panel said.

The discipline committee goes on to say that it was "unclear" what the BC College of Nurses and Midwives believed a further period of suspension would achieve given that she'd already served a 90-day suspension handed out in Alberta.

Ultimately, the discipline committee ruled that if Hennings does come to work in BC she should be supervised for two years under a variety of conditions.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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