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B.C. nurse suspended for accessing medical records of 7 people who were not her patients

FILE - This May 18, 2021, photo shows a woman typing on a laptop. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File) FILE - This May 18, 2021, photo shows a woman typing on a laptop. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

A B.C. nurse has had her licence suspended for four months after she "repeatedly" accessed medical records of seven people who were not her patients, according to a decision from the professional regulator's disciplinary panel.

Laura Atcheson was found to have committed professional misconduct by the panel after a hearing last year, and the decision on the penalty was posted online Thursday.

The college's disciplinary panel describes the misconduct as an abuse of power, a betrayal of trust and a "wanton disregard of patient privacy."

According to the decision, Atcheson accessed the patients' records on six separate occasions between September of 2016 and September of 2017. Atcheson also was found to have disclosed one patient's information to her mother.

"The nature, gravity and consequences of the respondent’s misconduct were serious. The respondent’s conduct was unprofessional in that she accessed private information of patients who were not in her direct care. The respondent’s actions were dishonest as she breached the confidentiality and privacy of those patients by accessing the medical files without authorization," the decision says.

"Her conduct was dishonourable when she violated her employer’s policies multiple times by accessing patient information and continued to do so after receiving privacy training and after being confronted about her unauthorized access of three patients’ medical files."

Atcheson did not make any submissions regarding what an appropriate penalty for the misconduct would be, and the panel accepted the consequences proposed by the college.

One of the factors considered was the need to preserve public confidence in the profession and to deter similar misconduct by Atcheson and other health-care professionals in the future.

"It is important that the public is assured that their medical records are not accessed by unauthorized individuals and disclosed to third parties. It is imperative that the public be assured that the trust that they are asked to place in health-care professionals who have access to their private sensitive information is not betrayed," the decision says.

"Since the provision of care cannot properly function without trust, it is imperative that the trust is not broken."

In addition to the suspension, Atcheson has been issued a formal reprimand, ordered to take remedial education courses, and to pay the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives $4,451.79 in costs.

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