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What Kind of Nurse Would Steal a Patient’s Meds?

I’ve been putting off writing on this type of story because it seems so tabloid-like and puts nurses in a bad light. Unfortunately, it seems like every day I see updates or a new story about how a nurse or pharmacy technician has stolen patient medications. I just can’t fathom what could go on in a person’s mind to get to such a low point as to stealing drugs from a patient.
I read a story on that appalled me. A nurse, Sarah May Casareto, was supposed to administer drugs to a patient who was to have his kidney stones removed. “The patient should have received 500 mcg of Fetanyl, a schedule II controlled substance. Instead, authorities allege Casareto ‘wasted’ more than half the drug and took 50 for herself. The patient received 150 mcg — about a third of the intended dosage.”
Furthermore, what completely disturbed me was that the patient was “screaming and moaning during the procedure” while the nurse appeared to be tired, dizzy,” belligerent and disoriented”. First of all, if a patient is in that much distress, wouldn’t the other staff present try to tend to his needs? Wouldn’t they know that something was amiss if the appropriate dosage of Fetanyl was administered? Secondly, if the nurse who consumed the medication was acting strangely, not performing her tasks and appeared “intoxicated”, shouldn’t someone have pulled her aside or removed her from assisting with a medical procedure?
The article on the website continues by saying that “After the procedure, a colleague found Casareto with two unlabeled syringes in her pocket. The colleague told her to throw the syringes away, and she emptied one syringe and threw it in the garbage…The colleague then refused to sign the medication sheet after the surgery, believing medication had been wasted or unused.
“When doctors and human resources representatives later confronted Casareto on the matter, they found an additional four empty syringes in her scrubs. She was asked to take a drug test, but instead resigned from the hospital… Casareto later met with police and told them she was dependent on pain medication.”
As a professional in Vocational Nursing, pharmacy technician, or RN, this incident just reminds me how important it is to be the patient’s advocate, not just protecting them from illness or injury, but from any source that may hinder the result of healing.
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What Makes a Good Nurse – A Patient’s Point-of-View Part 2

(Continued from Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010)

4) Confidence is so important! When your patient is scared and uncertain, the last thing they need to worry about is if the nurse knows what he or she is doing. Even an oxygen tube can be scary if the person adjusting it fidgets too much or mumbles “This just doesn’t seem right.” There is no shame in asking for help.

5) I know I mentioned compassion in #1, but I’m going to put it as #5, too. I had a bad car accident many years ago in which I peeled off the top part of my scalp as my head rammed into the dash board. I was attached to a gurney and left in the hallway of the ER for about 45 minutes alone. I lost about ¼ of my blood and was scared and in shock. Needless to say, I was a mess. When I found out my parents were on their way to the hospital, I had to ask three different nurses for a towel so I could try to clean up some of my blood off my face and hands. I was forgotten by the first two and the third came back a long while later. I have never felt as helpless as the times that I have been in the hospital. Doctors occasionally scurry in and out, but it’s the nurses that truly care for the hurting.

6) Be the patient’s advocate. You have so much power over the healing process of each patient. The doctor drifts in and out, but you are the one that truly knows the patient. Also, you are the one that can mediate between overbearing family members who stay too long or suck the energy from the patient.

As I write this, I am realizing that I never really understood the personal side of nursing. Of course we all think of the immense knowledge that one needs to have to do well in the medical field, but attitude of the heart and mind need to be fine tuned as well. It is a balance of education, compassion and confidence that makes a great nurse.