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Registered: 07/26/04
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Loc: Flag
38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO]
    #5107969 - 12/26/05 06:17 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

38 medical workers fired for drug theft
December 26, 2005 - rockymountainnews.com

Thirty-eight nurses and other medical professionals were fired from metro-area hospitals this year for stealing drugs meant for patients.

There were 76 cases of "diverted drugs" in Colorado's hospitals this fiscal year, almost triple the 26 in fiscal 2001, according to the Health Facilities Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Hospitals.

There were 88 such cases in Colorado's nursing homes the past fiscal year, up from 44 cases four years ago.

Some of the ousted nurses were so addicted that they stole Percocet, Vicodin and methadone, even though it was almost certain they would be caught, records show. There were cases, too, where medical personnel were found passed out in an employee lounge or bathroom, having taken overdoses of painkillers or narcotics.

The cases that ended in firings are likely the tip of the iceberg because hospitals sometimes deny the problem and fellow nurses often cover for colleagues who are stealing or acting strangely, said Margie Derozier, executive director of the Colorado Nurses Help Program.

"They're called 'unablers,' " Derozier said, referring to nurses who cover for addicted colleagues.

Ever-improving technology in devices such as the Pyxis or AccuDose narcotics dispensers makes it increasingly difficult to steal pills. The number of thefts isn't going down, however.

The number of nurses enrolling in the Colorado Nurses Help Program, the only state-authorized alternative-to-discipline program, has grown by 59 percent in the past few years.

Some 55,800 nurses are licensed to practice in Colorado, and the number who get in trouble with drugs and alcohol is a small fraction of the total. But with the lives of patients in their hands, addicted nurses pose a serious safety issue, regulators say.

"Our paramount consideration is public protection," said Geoff Hier, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which includes the Board of Nursing.

Hier noted that because there is a nursing shortage, the board isn't anxious to yank the license of a nurse who is willing to take steps to overcome addiction.

"If their substance abuse problem can be controlled so the public isn't at risk, then we do what we can to keep them practicing," Hier said.

Since 1995, 446 nurses have gone through the Colorado Nurses Help Program, said Derozier. Of those:

• 129 completed the three or five years of probation, the in-patient treatment programs, the random urine screens and the practice monitoring, and were successfully discharged to continue their careers.

• 223 dropped out, left the profession or were referred to the Board of Nursing for further discipline.

• 94 are currently in the program.

Although only about half of the troubled nurses who contact the Colorado Nurses Help Program enroll, there are many success stories, Derozier said.

"We have a state that believes in recovery," Derozier said. "There are wonderful opportunities" for those who choose them.

A large metro Denver hospital might have 20 automatic drug-dispensing machines - one for each department and a large one in the pharmacy.

With advances in security in the drug-dispensing machines, "chances are extremely good (thieves) are going to get caught," said Teresa Lazuran, Pyxis MedStation technician at Littleton Adventist Hospital.

But people who are trying to get drugs for their own use "aren't thinking clearly of what the outcome is likely to be," she said.

A doctor writes the order for medications and the order is filled by the pharmacy, which keeps a record.

When it's time for a patient to get a pill, the nurse verifies her identity at the Pyxis machine with her fingerprint.

The Pyxis has a series of drawers and pockets to hold different medications, segregated by their size and whether they are controlled substances.

If the order hasn't been verified by the pharmacy, the drawer or pocket won't open. The nurse pulls up a patient list, highlights her patient, and the machine boldfaces all of the medications that are available for him or her to remove. If everything is verified, the machine dispenses the medication.

Narcotics and controlled substances are in a carousel drawer. The medications are dispensed from a pie-shaped pocket, to ensure that only the precise amount will be dispensed.

The station's software records who uses the machine and at what time.

The drug-dispensing machines are refilled twice a day, and the counts are verified. Any discrepancies must be resolved before the end of the shift.

The Pyxis machine holds the history of which staffer took what medication.

Nurses are overworked and under high stress, factors that can lead some to seek narcotics or painkillers for relief, Derozier said.

Twenty-five years ago, nurses weren't even allowed to take a patient's blood pressure, Derozier said. Now, they pull chest tubes, administer medications and do many advanced procedures.

The dozens of cases of diverted drugs include:

• A staff member, who also was a patient at the hospital, got out of bed and removed 10 mg of Nubain under the names of two patients. When confronted, she confessed and is now on medical leave.

• Patients reported that a staff member had been forgetful and disorganized. A check of the Pyxis machine found 50 narcotic tablets missing. Thirteen patients hadn't gotten their proper medications. The staffer was fired.

If the addiction is strong enough, the medical worker will find a way to get drugs, even if the consequences are disastrous, Derozier said.

"This is a disease that changes their neurochemistry," Derozier said. "Most don't end up getting the help they need. They kind of chicken out. In the meantime, they might be working as nurses."

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Registered: 06/22/05
Posts: 21,817
Re: 38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO] [Re: veggie]
    #5108000 - 12/26/05 06:33 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)



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Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1,029
Loc: fairfax virginia
Last seen: 8 years, 2 months
Re: 38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO] [Re: RESTLESS]
    #5108006 - 12/26/05 06:35 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

damn addiction

to hell with the torpedos
full steam ahead.

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one

Diploid said:
What's with proclaiming freedom by abridging freedom? That makes no sense.

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The VerbalHerman Munster

Registered: 04/15/03
Posts: 5,326
Loc: Texas
Last seen: 13 years, 2 months
Re: 38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO] [Re: veggie]
    #5109943 - 12/27/05 02:58 AM (15 years, 2 months ago)


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Registered: 08/09/05
Posts: 2,414
Last seen: 15 years, 1 month
Re: 38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO] [Re: Dreamer987]
    #5112069 - 12/27/05 07:16 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

damn that machine is owning addictions.

No matter what I say and no matter what I write here.

I'm sick of always looking at this page with a blank stare.

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PresidentialCandidate 2008

Folding@home Statistics
Registered: 01/24/05
Posts: 2,961
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Last seen: 11 years, 4 months
Re: 38 medical workers fired for drug theft [CO] [Re: ShroomArtist84]
    #5112979 - 12/27/05 10:54 PM (15 years, 2 months ago)

There were 76 Cases of "diverted drugs" this fiscal year...

Yeah, but that's only the one's that were caught... :tongue:

It's Krang, Bitch!  :krang:

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