Nurse accused of manslaughter in patient's death - page 3

Nurse accused of manslaughter in patient's death 1/3/02 By JOSHUA MOLINA SANTA BARBARA NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER A nurse at Cottage Hospital was arrested Wednesday night in connection with a... Read More

  1. by   WriteStuff

    This thread has taken a few "twists and turns" along the way.

    I am sure we have all reacted with the same sense of horror to the alleged facts surrounding this very tragic incident.
    The very worst thing that could ever happen to any of us as Nurses, has happened to a "Nurse Rowland."

    Once again the bottom line of licensure - the safety of the public - is made loud and clear!

    The subject of "impaired health professionals", be it Nurses or Doctors, Physician's Assistants or Anesthesiologists, or whoever is licensed to work in this a subject we avoid like the plague! We "sidestep" this issue. We work hard to keep it "in the closet". We don't want to align ourselves with "those low-life Nurses" who are "no good junkies" and have "no business working alongside the rest of us."

    The disease of addiction, left untreated, is a killer in more ways than borne out by Nurse Rowland's current situation. Addiction is no respector of persons, as we all know.

    We can debate ad infinitum as to how Nurse Rowland "slipped through the cracks" on this one, and we may never know the answers, but all I have to say is there are many many "Nurse Rowlands" working with us, day in and day out, who need intervention, and are being ignored for one reason or another.
  2. by   nightingale
    Indeed this is a terrible thing, for the family of the victim, the hospital, the agency, the state boards will have consequesnces, and yes the nurse who has to live with what he has done...

    This nurse will now have to indure "cold turkey" in the jail where he is held (instead of getting the help and counseling that he really needs)... The jail and prisons I worked in (mind you it may be differnt elsewhere) will only subscribe to an ETOH detox. episode.

    We all suffer when something like this happens... perhaps it is a case of darkest before the dawn.. perhaps this will wake up those in power to the real need for follow through and intervention at the first step... before it involves patient care and patient consequences....

  3. by   WriteStuff

    Yes, this Nurse will face consequences, and rightfully so, if in fact found guilty of the charges now being made against him.

    As we write about all of this. he is behind bars, without benefit of medical intervention (because the law enforcement sector is barely coming to an understanding of the disease of addiction.....other than how to "spot" it, recognize the "red flags" of impairment and so on.....and how many "drunks" are thrown into jail, left to "sleep it off", when in fact many of them are in grave danger of seizures and death from a lifetime of hardcore use. And society says: "So be it, they get what they deserve!"

    In some respects, for Nurse Howard, if he is an addict - and facts being uncovered seem to point in that direction - perhaps this is the sorrowful "wakeup" call for him at an enormous cost, i.e., someone else's life. Along the same line, if it is determined that he is the one who stole the Demerol, and it was taken for other than "personal use".....i.e., selling.....he will never be able to be licensed again. Boards of Nursing in every state as far as I know, have Rehab/Diversion Programs for Nurses who are impaired either from an addiction, or a mental illness, and assist them in recovering so that they can return to practise. However, these are voluntary programs and any Nurse who is caught diverting drugs on the job, for the purpose of sales, is excluded from even applying.

    Nurse Howard now needs far more than lawyers for what he is about to confront with this horrific "wake up" call.
  4. by   -jt
    <there are many "Nurse Rowlands" working with us, day in and day out, who need intervention, and are being ignored for one reason or another.>

    So true and most are not getting the help they need. But in NY state, they do get that help now. Nurses here took one of our state association services which helped our members in situations like Rowland and this year succeeded in having it passed into state law - available for all nurses in the state. Its called SPAN (Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses). I feel sorry for that guy - all alone facing loss of his license & livelihood & jail. Its not right to find a nurse with a dangerous problem and just cut him loose to his own devices while the state "investigates". Instead of just letting the employer fire & report him, & let him go on his merry way down the spiral, if Missouri was obligated to offer him the opportunity to seek help when it first noticed his problem, this tragedy might not have happened.

    The New York State Nurses Association established SPAN as a resource for registered nurses coping with chemical dependency problems in New York State. SPAN assists nurses, by state law now, who are affected by alcoholism and/or addiction to other drugs, and it is also preparing to assist nurses with certain mental health problems. Assistance is provided in the areas of prevention, education and identification. The possible legal implications of the nurse in treatment, and special re-entry into practice considerations are incorporated into the counseling assistance provided to the nurse along with the patient/client-as-a-nurse issues, special issues related to license status and the functional nursing role, as well as the clinical issues. Nurses are urged to obtain legal counsel and SPAN educates them as to the legal ramifications of their situation. It addresses possible licensure consequences as part of their psychosocial assessment and helps the nurse connect with appropriate resources for assistance with licensure issues, while providing clinical support to the nurse.

    SPAN assists any nurse who has been identified, or suspected, of being an abuser of alcohol or other drugs; been reassigned to another position because of substance abuse problems; been terminated from a position because of problems associated with alcoholism or substance abuse or left a position while under suspicion of addictive illness.

    SPAN assists addicted nurses with the regulatory agencies that will be involved in their case and with enrolling in and understanding the Professional Assistance Program (PAP).

    PAP is a resource for licensed professionals who "may be temporarily incapacitated for the active practice of a profession". This program makes it possible for licensed professionals who have not yet caused patient harm, to seek treatment without being subject to professional discipline charges. The RN license is voluntarily surrendered to PAP. This action is confidential and not reflected on the licensee's permanent record; license restoration occurs when the participant and treatment personnel deem that a return to practice is safe for the practitioner and the public and an application for restoration is approved by the PAP with recommendation from SPAN, a 12 step recovery program, and treatment personnel; the PAP provides structure and motivation to maintain abstinence. Employers may be more receptive to retain in the workplace nurses willing to participate in the PAP.

    The SPAN program assists the addicted nurse with the physical addiction, the psychological effects and the legal consequences.
    SPAN helps to support the return of nurses affected by addictive illness to safe, effective practice by providing nurse-specific support groups, education, direction to and linkages with additional resources, and provides ongoing advocate support to further assist the nurse in her recovery and in the maintenance of her recovery.

    Sadly, but fortunately for NY nurses, it is a growing service - one that is now required by state law and administrated by NYSNA.


    About that "poem" from the angry husband - it was a simple little thing attached to an email update I received from the striking nurses on Long Island. I dont know where on this board it is - I didnt give it a second thought. It was one of those things you read & file in the "circular bin" without another glance.

    Ask W for the URL - Im sure he has it since he started a whole other thread about it but its really not that big a deal. Take it from where it comes - an upset husband watching his wife be abused by her employer.
    Last edit by -jt on Jan 6, '02
  5. by   Larry
    Some thoughts

    Whether Kevin is a scab or not has little to do with what has happened.

    You are all quick to judge him without removing the logs from your own eyes.

    Are you telling me that you have never made an error before ?

    Let the nurse who is innocent cast the first stone.

    Maybe Kevin has family or financial problems that effected his judgement ....

    Kevin is likely to lose his licence and his livelihood.

    Its very sad to see a colleague in hot water.

    What kind of legal representation can he expect ? What sentence could he get if found guilty ?

    Did he get a good handover from the preceding nurse. Or could he have had an incomplete handover and a judgemental look ?

    Kevin needs your support not condemnation. I'd hate to have you as my colleagues - the real fault is the hospital for not paying you and bringing in scabs..... Kevin is only your scapegoat.

    What prescription drugs is he accused of stealing ?

    Could Kevin be wrongly accused ? Could his problems stem from feminism ?

    Kevin and other nurses who are in problems. Put your trust in Jesus.
  6. by   nightingale
  7. by   pebbles
    Originally posted by Larry
    Kevin and other nurses who are in problems. Put your trust in Jesus.
    OR in something else that will help too....

    Maybe making excuses or coming up with explanations or condemming a total strager isn't so productive. How do we turn this around to benefit our own perspectives?
  8. by   WriteStuff

    I've read all the posts on this thread and don't really get the impression that anyone is "condemning" this Nurse. I think because we are all human beings FIRST, (with our own set of moral, ethical, and religious values), then Moms, Dads, and Nurses next - we can't help but "react" accordingly.

    What is true for all of us (as Nurses), is that we bring those values with us, along with our personal opinions, when we go about our daily business in our work settings.

    What I have to say now is because I choose to - hoping it sheds some light, hoping it helps.

    I am a "Nurse Howard." I never killed anyone, thank God. To my knowledge, I never hurt any patient at any time. But what I DO know is that the potential for that was very real. I also put my peers and colleagues in an extremely uncomfortable and compromising situation for moral and ethical reasons.

    Seven years ago I was that Nurse who was addicted to alcohol and drugs. I was that Nurse who diverted narcotics from her work setting for her own use. I was that Nurse who all of you looked at and said amongst yourselves: "My God, does no one see what she is doing here? How can she get away with that? What if she harms a patient, or kills someone? They need to fire her at best! She's casting dispersion on all of us here!!"

    And all of your worst fears were well founded.

    Most fortunately for me, I worked in a hospital at the time that is on the forefront of understanding substance abuse and the disease of addiction for what it truly is: left untreated.....a killer disease......just like any other killer disease that is left untreated. Because my employer understood this, they intervened - but it took three years for that to happen!!! Toward the end, I was suicidal, and every fiber of my being was screaming out for someone to help me, because I could not help myself. I lived to "use", and "used" to live - which is the final stage of addiction.

    For those of you who think that an impaired Nurse is "capable" of reaching out for help for himself or herself, you are trapped in a delusion.

    The fact that I am writing this message on this Bulletin Board today, and am alive at all and still practising my profession is because my employer took the risk of intervening and seeing to it that I got the help I needed. They pointed me in the RIGHT direction. From my perspective, I am a walking "miracle". But I can only say that because my employer saw me as a human being in desperate need of intense help, immediately.

    They did NOT call the police. They did NOT have me arrested on the job. They did NOT call the local news media and make "an example" of me. They did NOT treat me like a criminal, even though I was "stealing" drugs from patients and my employer.

    What they knew and understood was that my disease of addiction had nothing to do with "will power." They knew and understood that I was bound up within the tentacles of a killer that without outside help would bring a disastrous outcome.

    My employer did not view me as some "low-life, weak-willed junkie", who needed to be thrown out the door, into the darkness of a back alley to die of an overdose.

    The truth is, I was one of their most admired Nurses, one of their best Nurses, and had only months before been selected as the "Nurse of the Month" at a hospital where there are over 3,000 employees!

    I would like to share what it has been like since the day of that intervention, and over the past seven years, but time and space are limited on a bulletin board of this type. But if any of you are interested in what my Recovery has been, and continues to be like, please e-mail me privately.

    So in conclusion, I guess what I feel needs to be said here is this: whether we admit it or not, we as Nurses know very little about this subject of addiction, unless we are working in that discipline, or are recovering Nurses to begin with. We need a whole lot of education. We already have the compassion and caring it takes. We should not judge ourselves too harshly for seeming "uncaring" when it comes to a peer or colleague who is impaired (on the job or off the job). It is a frightening, and upsetting thing to work alongside a fellow Nurse (or even Dr.) who is suffering in this way.

    And our employers have a responsibility as well. There continues to be a great deal of stigma and discrimination where substance abuse is concerned - at every level of society - and I have felt that along the way.

    I am not "cured" - there is no such thing, where the disease of addiction is concerned. Because of the Recovery Program I have in place for me, and practice every single day of my life, I keep my disease of addiction in REMISSION. If I fail to tend to all of those things I DO today to keep me clean and sober, I will fall immediately back into the clutches of this killer disease. And no one understands that more clearly than I. My freedom to choose has been restored. So, one day at a time, I CHOOSE to NOT drink, and NOT use addictive substances. I am far enough down the road of recovery where the obsession to do so no longer is an "issue." However, this is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease, and is always "waiting in the wings", doing pushups, and ready to "pounce", if I fail to take care of business.

    And yes, I had to "want" to get well. That's a tiny little word, but if the "want to" is not accessible, there will never be recovery for someone suffering with addiction. And also - recovery fails bigtime, if the addict is doing it for anyone but himself or herself. People who "clean up" for the court system, a parent, a wife, a husband, a child, a friend, a lover, a pet, an employer, a Board of Nursing, and on and on - will ultimately relapse and fail.

    Thank you for letting me share. I hope this sheds some new and helpful light on this subject.

    I do know this. Nurse Howard is paying a price that none of us can afford.

    Bonnie C.
  9. by   nightingale
    for sharing....

    There but by the grace of God so go I....

    It is so important that we have a forum to discuss these matters. Yes, some of us can and do become a bit opinionated (thank God) but this is a safe environment to share our expereinces, grow, learn, and move forward...

    Nurse Howards' situation is complex; we are not privy to all the facts but can surmise and discuss what we see or think we see. This is important in helping us organize, or at least it is for me.

    Well, I can not say that "if only a person were to do this or that" they would be cured. What I can say is I will learn from his unfortunate experience to be more sensitive to the needs of my peers and maintaining patient safety.

    Not one of us.. can think as well as... ALL of us.. Thank you comrades for being there and helping me think it through and helping me to grow...

    I am very sad for Nurse Howard. I have this image of how he must be in such despair and those thoughts are painful. He is one of our own and we are not able to reach out to him with the normal interventions that is afforded most of us if we need it.

    There but by the grace of God.. so go I...

  10. by   zumalong
    I have to agree with Bonnie. While we do not know all the details of this case (and the news media is only going to focus on the issues as they see them), the situation of substance abuse is treated so poorly in our society. I truly believe that it is a disease.

    If there were allegations from a previous employer, then part of the responsibility should fall on their shoulders. If the agencies do not want to get involved and they know there is a problem, then they are placing patient lives at risk as much as the person who is impaired.

    I am from New York State and am going to follow the new law for the Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses. I believe this goes into effect this month. If it is successful I hope all nurses will support it for their states. We need to support each other as much as we can. No one else will.

    I am still confused as to how this medication was delivered in such a fashion, but do not want to see this become a "nurses kill patients" issue.
  11. by   Peeps Mcarthur

    "Cottage admitted Mr. Mattern, an avid swimmer and resident of the Patrician Mobile Home Park in Ventura, to its Intensive Care Unit at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 23, police reports state"

    "Sometime during the morning hours of Dec. 24, he was transferred out of intensive care and into a room on the 5th

    But at 5 p.m. Christmas Eve, Mr. Mattern began to have "cardiac rhythm disturbances," documents state.
    {from the first article}

    An intensive care nurse discovered a tube designed to deliver a liquid vitamin and mineral supplement into a patient's mouth -- in Mr. Mattern's arm. Police say the supplement is clearly labeled for oral use.

    The tube was allegedly inserted by Mr. Rowland.

    "At the time Mr. Mattern was admitted to the hospital, he was assigned to Mr. Rowland," said Lt. Katzenstein.

    "He was responsible for giving Mr. Mattern everything. Through investigation, detectives eliminated the possibility that anyone else was involved."

    I'm not buying what they're selling.
    Does anyone else?
    Your witness council.

  12. by   P_RN
    Peeps that was my first impression. Something funny there. A lot more than meets the eye.

    First off don't we all check the lines WHILE the patient is being transferred, if only to make sure they don't get pulled out?

    I wonder if the site may have been labelled by this nurse and that's how he was connected with the "tube?"

    Has anyone heard anything else since these reports? I seriously doubt ALL media accounts when it comes to something like this. It seems that they are all too quick with assumptions.

    And Bonnie I think you are one brave lady.
  13. by   crane32
    I feel like I don't know enough of the situation to form an opinion. I do know that we have all made mistakes. I hope that it does not come down to a nurse fearing to make a med error & being charged with manslaughter--unless done on purpose or foolishly. We are all working under extreme pressures.