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distressing Nurse who roughly handled disabled boy (8) in 'distressing footage' faces being struck off

Sarah Therese McWilliams (31) has been found guilty of all allegations at a fitness to practise inquiry


Stock photo

Stock photo

Stock photo

A nurse who roughly handled a severely disabled non-verbal child and placed a bedsheet over his head faces being struck off the nursing register.

Sarah Therese McWilliams (31) has been found guilty of all allegations at a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness to practise inquiry.

CCTV footage described as "extremely distressing" showed McWilliams, a registered psychiatric nurse, roughly handling a boy (8) who has spinal muscular atrophy while providing care at his home on December 18, 2017.

A fitness to practise inquiry committee found Ms McWilliams guilty of professional misconduct, poor professional performance and non-compliance with the code of professional conduct related to eight allegations.

Ms McWilliams roughly handled and repositioned the child when his care plan stipulated a hoist or sliding sheet be used due to his severe muscular fragility.

Ms McWilliams also threw an object across the child's room, shouted at the boy and admitted swatting his hand away when he was trying to get her attention.

Ms McWilliams, who now works in retail, was also found guilty of tapping the boy on his hand with the remote control used to alter the position of his bed.

She previously told the committee: "Caring and offering support and help comes naturally to me, but on this occasion, it wasn't shown perfectly".

The committee heard McWilliams worked for a private agency that supported the young boy's parents. The boy required 24/7 care.

Ms McWilliams said she initially found the work challenging but believed she "flourished" over the six months she cared for the child.

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

Describing the video of the incident as "extremely distressing to watch", Ms McWilliams said: "I hold my hands up and say my actions during those few minutes were completely out of character and completely not OK."

Her treatment of the child was witnessed by the child's father, who asked her to leave the house.

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On the day of the incident, the child's mother checked on him at 5am and found he had been awake and lying on his side for two hours, which could be harmful due to the child's lack of muscle strength.

The 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 said 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," she said. "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."

In an email to her employers, Ms McWilliams further admitted swatting the child's hand away a couple of times "as he is very tactile".

Delivering the committee's decision, chairman Conan McKenna rejected a submission by Ms McWilliams's solicitors whereby she offered to be censured.

Mr McKenna said the committee had regard to the fact the child "was a very vulnerable person" and given the gravity of the conduct of Ms McWilliams, they did not believe censure was the appropriate sanction.

The committee will prepare a report for the NMBI board, which will decide an appropriate sanction.

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