A nurse who hit a vulnerable patient weeks before his death has been cleared to carry on working after a tribunal found she was simply trying to illustrate why his behaviour was inappropriate.
Emma Trubody, a former staff nurse at Royal Blackburn Hospital, Lancashire, was found guilty of misconduct by an independent panel but they ruled that her fitness to practise was not impaired.
The 36-year-old wiped away tears of relief today as the Nursing and Midwifery Council said she was not regarded "a risk to the safety of patients".
It followed an incident in which she hit a 46-year-old patient on the arm on September 6, 2008 and allegedly asked him: "Why do you keep p**ing on the floor?"
The unnamed patient, who walked with aid of a Zimmer frame, was suffering from kidney and liver failure and died six weeks afterwards. He was further described by Jillian Alderwick, chairman of an independent panel hired to review the case, as "a complex patient with psychiatric and physical conditions".
"He could sometimes be violent," she said.
The hearing heard the patient punched Ms Trubody twice on the day of the incident. In response, she hit him on the arm.
Ms Alderwick said: "It is clear the blow did not cause him to lose his balance or cause him pain. One witness described it as a tap.
"Her evidence was she had not lost her temper and was not striking back in anger."
While it was "wholly unacceptable" for a nurse to strike patients, the panel accepted it was an isolated incident, and that Ms Trubody was genuinely sorry for slapping "patient A".
"She was trying to illustrate to patient A why his behaviour was unacceptable," Ms Alderwick continued.
"She did not lose her temper but she did fail to meet acceptable standards."
That said, Ms Trubody had "considerable insight into why what she did was unacceptable", Ms Alderwick added.
While Ms Trubody's behaviour did not reflect well on the profession, the panel concluded she was not a risk to the safety of patients.
"She worked hard to become a nurse, and is well regarded by her colleagues," Ms Alderwick said.