A nurse who made a false insurance claim and stole drugs has avoided being struck off the profession's register.

American-born Christopher Joseph Foley was, however, suspended for 18 months.

His misconduct included looking at nude women and sexual images on his employer's computer system.

It's believed he was back in America and last year he did not attend a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing in Hamilton.

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The tribunal has though ordered overseas nursing authorities be told of its decision.

It found him guilty of five disciplinary charges and in a written ruling released today, knocked back calls from the nurses' professional conduct committee to strike Mr Foley off the register.

Instead, the tribunal imposed the suspension, set conditions should he return to work in New Zealand and ordered him to pay about $7500 costs.

"My Foley's professional misconduct, whilst dishonest and highly unprofessional, was not offending at the level warranting deregistration," the tribunal decision says.

"Mr Foley's offending did not involve any direct harm to patient safety, not did it involve any abuse of trust with vulnerable patients or members of the public."

He became a registered nurse in New Zealand in 2008 and, until September 2012, worked for the Waikato District Health Board.

The next month he took a job at Spring Hill prison in Waikato, where he stayed until he was sacked in April 2013.

That year he was sentenced to 100 hours' community work for drug offences and insurance fraud.

This stemmed from Mr Foley claiming his Hamilton home was burgled. He tried to claim $7500 in insurance, but police found some of the missing items in a search of his property and that of his ex-wife's.

Officers also found prescription medication, including tramadol and morphine, belonging to the prison.

The tribunal found he had, without authorisation, taken medical supplies and drugs from the DHB.

And in December 2012, Mr Foley used the Corrections computer system to view inappropriate images of nude women and sexual intercourse.

He was initially suspended from Spring Hill after an article appeared in a provincial newspaper about the charges he faced, which he hadn't told his boss about.

Mr Foley didn't attend the tribunal hearing but provided a statement saying he was injured playing rugby in 2012 and was out of work for two months.

"At the same time, he separated from his wife of 15 years and moved away from his church. He explains thus was a stressful and unhappy time for him," the tribunal says.

He said he'd accidentally taken morphine from the DHB when he left it in his uniform.

At Spring Hill, he'd taken the medication as his doctor was away for Christmas and he needed anti-inflammatories, Mr Foley said.

"He states he asked his manager if he could take discarded medications and that his manager told him, 'sure, but don't get caught', because he would say I did not know anything about it."

Mr Foley acknowledged he was responsible for his actions and made bad decisions.