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'distressing' Nurse roughly handled disabled boy and put sheet over his head 'due to frustration'

Video of incident 'extremely distressing to watch'


There were thousands of assaults on HSE staff last year (Stock photo)

There were thousands of assaults on HSE staff last year (Stock photo)

There were thousands of assaults on HSE staff last year (Stock photo)

A nurse who roughly handled a non-verbal severely disabled child and put a bedsheet over his head said her actions were due to "tiredness and frustration".

CCTV footage of Sarah McWilliams (31), a registered psychiatric nurse, manhandling a boy (8) who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) was played to a fitness-to-practise inquiry committee.

Ms McWilliams also shouted at the child, failed to stick to his care plan and "roughly" removed his oxygen mask.

The nurse, who now works in retail, also "tapped" the child on the hand with the remote control used to alter the height of his bed when he was trying to get her attention.

Ms McWilliams told the committee that "caring and offering support and help comes naturally to me, but on this occasion, it wasn't shown perfectly".

She had worked for a private agency that provided support to the young boy's parents. The boy required 24/7 care.

Ms McWilliams said she initially found the work challenging.

However, she believed she "flourished" over the six months she cared for the boy.

"And 99.9pc of my shifts there bar this incident were happy and joyful," she told the inquiry.

"We had fun, he was a happy child, and the family were more than pleased with my care up until that point."

Describing the video of the incident, Ms McWilliams described it as "extremely distressing to watch".

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"It's quite obvious by my body language I am frustrated at the time," she said.

"I hold my hands up and say my actions during those few minutes were completely out of character and completely not OK."

Her behaviour was observed by the father of the child, who asked her to leave the house, the hearing was told.

In an email to her employers three days afterwards, Ms McWilliams acknowledged her behaviour and said "proper care was not taken by me at that time".

The hearing was told the child's mother checked on him at 5am and found he had been awake and lying on his side for two hours.

Lying on his side for extended periods could be potentially harmful due to the child's lack of muscle strength, the inquiry heard.

The child's mother asked Ms McWilliams to get the child up, went back to bed, and informed her husband, who came downstairs to check on his son.

Ms McWilliams admitted how at this point she was frustrated by the request from the child's mother.

"I admit I was frustrated. I had spent almost two hours trying to get him back to sleep, and I felt rest and sleep was what he needed."

Due to the child's complex physical needs, his care plan expressly stated he was only to be moved via hoist when being cared for by one person.

Ms McWilliams did not do this and was seen by the child's father roughly handling the child.

"I did roll him more harsh and quicker than I would normally. He was not in pain and did not make any indication of such," she said.

"He would always cry if in pain, and he didn't. I did not use a sliding sheet maybe out of frustration."

While making the bed, she said the undersheet was pulled away further than the blanket and did not recall "whether the blanket was over his face".

Ms McWilliams has not returned to nursing since.

She did not challenge any of the allegations she faced of professional misconduct and poor professional performance at the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland hearing.

It will deliver its decision later.

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