World of Irish Nursing & Midwifery May 2019

24 LEGAL Focus

Statement writing and defending your practice Before completing an incident form or writing a statement, stop, think, ask questions and seek advice from the INMO, writes Edward Mathews

recollection. As registered professionals who are accountable for their practice to the Nurs- ing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI), and as registered professionals carrying substantial responsibilities, it is important that nurses and midwives recognise the importance of providing an appropriate and complete account of their practice, when called on to either complete an inci- dent form or to provide a statement. Incident forms Reflecting on the completion of incident forms, these are a common occurrence in the workplace, and they often follow issues of concern or note during your prac- tice. When completing these forms there is often an opportunity to provide a nar- rative account as to what has occurred. The space available is often brief, and the time available is often even less. In that regard, if you are completing an incident form, and if there are particular issues of concern, it is important to include these in the narrative of account. However, at each occasion where you are completing an incident form, unless you are abso- lutely satisfied that you have included all relevant detail as to what occurred, we strongly recommend that you include the following sentence at the end of the nar- rative account: “This is a summary of events and does not include all details.” Statement Time: Having submitted an incident form, or indeed in circumstances where you have never submitted an incident form, you may be called on to provide a statement or account of events by your employer. It is a reasonable and lawful request by your employer that you would

provide a statement, however, you are not obliged to provide a statement on demand. Everyone who is asked to provide a state- ment is entitled to time to consider the contents of that statement, and to seek advice on the contents. Therefore, not- withstanding anything that is said to you by a manager, you are not under an obli- gation to provide a statement on demand, and you are entitled to insist that you be provided time to allow you consider the contents of your statement and to allow you to seek advice. Context: On any occasion where you are asked to provide an account of your prac- tice, it is important that you are aware of the context in which this request is made. Is the request being made as part of a systems analysis dealing with risk manage- ment? Is it an issue relating to the dignity at work policy? Are you responding to a grievance? Are you responding to a patient complaint? In all circumstances, always ask the context in which the information is being sought. Nature of issue/complaint: In addition, if you are responding to any complaint or expression of concern in relation to your practice, then you are entitled to know the nature of the concerns that you are responding to. If a person has made a writ- ten complaint against you, you are entitled to have a copy of that written complaint prior to completing your statement of response. Even in circumstances where a written complaint has not been made, if a verbal complaint has been made to a man- ager, you are entitled to a written account of the complaint made to the manager prior to completing your statement of response.

Nurses and midwives are often called on to provide a written account of their practice, or to write about an event which occurred during their practice. Recording practice in the normal way is unremarkable, however, each time that you are called on to provide a formal account of something that has occurred, outside the normal recording of practice, this is a significant event and one that deserves special attention. Where you are called on to provide an account of your practice, for example by providing a statement on or an account of an event, or to complete an incident/ occurrence form, there is the potential for the information that you provide to be used in the processes and procedures of your employment, and outside of your employment, such as in fitness to practise proceedings. Regrettably, all too often nurses and midwives, who are working under severe pressure, commit an incomplete version of events to paper, and this version of events follows them through all the processes fol- lowing the event in their workplace. It is important to remember that where for example a Fitness to Practise Commit- tee is looking at the practice of a nurse or midwife, they often pay particular atten- tion to the first account of events provided and regard that as the most accurate account, given the proximity of when it was written to the events in question. In the INMO’s experience, nurses and midwives often write incomplete accounts, or summary accounts of what occurred, and it can be mistaken that what they have written at a particular period of time amounted to the totality of their

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