A Whangarei Hospital intensive care nurse has been disciplined for serious misconduct after falling asleep while on duty.

The Northern Advocate understands that the nurse, who is believed to have another job outside the hospital, was caring for a seriously ill child at the time and left her post for several hours to sleep.

Northland District Health Board chief executive Nick Chamberlain confirmed that an investigation has been completed regarding an alleged incident of a nurse sleeping on duty in September.

The investigation was completed last month and Dr Chamberlain said the DHB considers, in this instance, unauthorised sleeping whilst on duty to be serious misconduct.

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Such misconduct is grounds for disciplinary action including possible termination of employment.

"We will not discuss the level of discipline undertaken on this occasion as it is an employment matter," he said.

"The patient's family has been advised of the investigation and an apology offered."

While the DHB is not talking further about the matter the Northern Advocate understands that the nurse, who is believed to work part-time at the hospital, was working a night shift at the time.

It's believed the nurse left her post for several hours to sleep while the child was under her care and the child's mother, or other family member, raised the issue with the DHB, sparking the investigation.

The DHB was asked to confirm these contentions, and to comment on the child's illness and the potential dangers of a patient being left unattended for several hours by a nurse sleeping or being absent while on duty.

The DHB was also asked if it was common for ICU, or other nurses, to have another job while working for the DHB or if the DHB condoned, encouraged or endorsed nurses having a second job.

The DHB declined to answer the specific questions.

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