Nurse has serious probs...abuser?

  1. I happened upon this site while I was searching for information. I am not a nurse, but a member of my family is and it's beginning to look like we could have a serious problem. I am terribly concerned, confused and any help/support I can find here would be sincerely appreciated. Ok, here goes. My sister in law has been an LPN for over 10 years now. She has worked at our local hospital for quite a long time now. She spent most of her time working in the outpatient clinic. Straight days, no late nights or weekends, seemed like a perfect job. Until about 9 months ago. She came to me one afternoon for a haircut when she preceeded to tell me that she was no longer employed and wanted to "fill me in before I heard it from someone else." She told me first that she had it with them and quit, they had accused her of stealing drugs, Toradol was the name of it, and threated to turn her over to the state board of nursing. All the while she was telling me this story, she was drinking (more like sipping) on a bottle of prescription cough syrup. In my mind, I felt like there was a bit more to the story, because when I would ask specific questions she would just tell me repeatedly how awfully the hospital had treated other employees after the recent buyout, and this was an easy way to eliminate employees who had reached top salary. Anyway, a couple of days later, as she was again retelling the story of why she wasn't employed the story changed to that she was asked to resign and attend a counciling or they would report her to the state board. When I mentioned that she had earlier said she had quit, she said "quit , resigned, same thing". I was more convinced now that she she wasn't telling it all, so I didn't press the issue and just waited to hear more. One day at work, one of my customers asked about my Sister in law and how she was doing. I knew that she had previously worked with her and asked her exactly what she meant. Well, during the conversation she related to me that my sister in law had been watched for apparently quite a while and was under suspect of taking drugs from the locked cabinet, which I understand she had the key. The nurse said that those above her had stated that my sister in law showed "addictive tendancies" and that her drugs of choice were Demerol, codeine and other narcotics. I know this woman and she is the ultimate professional, and have no reason to think that she would lie, especially when it comes to the welfare of another human being. She told me to ask around, that all the local doctors were on to her doctor hopping to get her 'scripts that she needed. So, I asked, and sure enough, other nurses told me the exact same thing. Armed with this I decided to tell my mother in law what I discovered. Unfortunately, she didn't believe this could be true. Oh well, I thought what can I do? She obviously has covered her tracks and is making it worse on herself. Last months she asked me to take the day off. I asked her what she wanted, and she told me that she needed me to drive her to the Board of Nursing office that the hospital had turned her in, and that after she told the lady in the office the story, the lady told her that they wanted to just put a name with a face, show up and she'd be out in less than 10 minutes. I didn't go, and when I asked her how it turned out, she told me that the people at the state board office suggested she had quite a court case and that she should sue the hospital and she could get a large sum. Please tell me that I am not nuts...someone is not telling the truth here! My father in law is sick with cancer and the stress of his illness is hard enough without worrying whether or not she's stealing his pain meds behind our back. I am so distraught by all this...Please help!
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    About Belle

    Joined: Sep '01; Posts: 3


  3. by   WriteStuff
    You have come to a good place to get some answers to your questions, all of which are valid, and obviously very very painful for you.

    Let me just say that the source of your "feeling confused" is because you are receiving twisted and distorted information from your sister-in-law. She is being far from "honest" with you, let alone herself! Your own good common sense, having "checked out" her story, and relying on your "gut reaction", has proven this.
    YOU are NOT the one who is "confused" here.

    My name is Bonnie Creighton. I am an RN, and have been for thirty years now. On August the 8th of this year I celebrated six years clean and sober. For twenty-eight years alcohol was my "medication", until it stopped doing for me what I needed it to do, i.e., "fix" my feelings. As a Registered Nurse, one day I crossed that line we all "swear" we will never cross......taking narcotics for our own use. For three years after that, I diverted Demerol, Morphine, Dilaudid, Valium, Stadol, Phenergan, Vistaril, Xanax, Ativan, MS-Contin, Vicodin, Darvocet, and any mood or mind-altering substance I could get my hands on!

    Toward the end of my diversion, my drugs of choice became demerol, morphine, and dilaudid, intravenously, and exclusively so.

    `My employer pulled off an intervention one morning, after I had worked my 12-hr. night shift (7p-7a). It was the saddest, most humiliating day of my life!!! BUT, it put me on the road to Recovery. My employer at that time saw addiction for what it truly is.......a disease. (dis-ease) It is VERY complex, and there is much we still do not understand, but science and medicine are making headway and inroads all the time.

    Your sister-in-law is not a "bad" person who needs to "get her act together".....she is a very very sick person, who needs to get well! If she truly is diverting drugs, she is an unwitting victim because "intellectually" she knows the difference between right and wrong, but this is a disease that once it is active, and off and running (inside of us), is more powerful than our own will-power, our own good reasoning powers, our own good intellect, and most frightening of all, more powerful than the spiritual force that feeds our own soul!

    Please e-mail me privately if you wish at :
    I would be glad to talk with you further because I believe I could be of some help.

    Bonnie Creighton,RN, MHCA
    Mental Health Consumer Advocate
  4. by   debbyed
    Hospitals now days are very careful not to leave themselves open to lawsuits and demand careful documentation to substatintuate any accuations related to diversion of drugs. If your sister-in-law has indeed lost her job the hospital must feel they have all the documentation they need. In the majority of places of employment the employee must be offered help first, prior to termination unless the situation has become severe.

    From the differences in your S.I.L.'s story it would not be a stretch to believe that she was given an option of receiving help or being terminated. If she had not been given the option she would never have said any thing about counciling.

    Also, the State Board, does no "invite you" to visit them so that they can tell you that you have a case to sue your employer. The State Board "invites you" to come in to defend yourself and in many cases to hand in your license. It would be interesting to see if she still had her licence. Most of the State Boards now have web sites that will have information on suspended and revoked licences. You might want to take a look.

    If you S.I.L. is indead abusing drugs it is not a stretch to believe that she is helping herself to family members medication.

    Good look, but you will find that there is very little you can do until this person hits bottom, which may yet be a long way off.
  5. by   tobias fonge
    You probably need to get a locked narcotic box for your father's medications before they all disappear. She needs help right now but she is in denial. You can't really help her until she accepts that she needs help. May God bless you in your search for a solution to this problem.
  6. by   prmenrs
    First of all, I am VERY sorry your family is going through this difficult time.

    The advise the others have given you is good and pertinent. If the option of home health nursing is available for your father in law, I would use it, and advise that nurse of your concerns re: SIL diverting drugs.

    I am concerned that the nurses from this hospital are breaching confidentiality issues by discussing this situation with you. If your SIL has a lawsuit, that would be it!! It is inappropriate for them to share ANY of this info with you, or even to discuss it within the hospital, unless it is HER boss, discussing it "in channels", i.e., with nursing/hospital administration. Even if this turns out to be true, they are slandering her by gossipping in the beauty salon about her problem.

    If the issue comes up again, try to NOT talk about it, instead suggest that they speak directly w/your SIL.

    I really hope that she is able to get whatever assistance she needs, and that your family is able to support her while she does it. Best of Luck.
  7. by   P_RN
    I wonder if your SIL actually thinks you believe her?

    I'm also concerned that other nurses would discuss hospital business with you. I wonder if they are trying to pump you for information.

    And Bonnie Creighton, you are wonderful. Belle listen to her. Get with her even if by e-mail. I think you will benefit greatly. Your SIL knows she is doing wrong if she is diverting. By the time it makes it to the State Board it's pretty serious.

  8. by   KellyandtheBoys
    I'm sorry to say, but, it seems your sister-in-law is lying. Does she ever show any other signs of this problem? It seems the only thing todo would be to encourage her to get help. She seems to be in denial big time, so, that may be very difficult. I'm not sure how you can protect your father-in-laws medication since others don't see the problem. But, hopefully your sisnter-in-law doesn't take his meds. Good Luck, I wish I had more and better advice for you.
  9. by   Belle
    A million thanks to you all! This has been such a screwed up situation to be in the middle of that sometimes it's hard to relate this mess to others without seeming like I'm rambling on and on. I will try to reply to everyone's post in this, so if you have a
    question or comment I didn't reply to, please don't hesitate to let
    me know.

    Kellyandthe boys,
    She's apparently lying to her husband and two kids (20 and 25) They totally believe her story, and there is no way they, me or anyone else can help her until the truth comes out. I understand the "rock bottom/acceptance" thing. The saddest part is that her own daughter is in nursing school at this time and now working in the same facility with her mom. I really believe,(looking back you know is crystal clear), that she has had this problem since before she started nursing. Over the last 10 years she has had numerous surgeries, carpal tunnel twice, gall bladder, heart cath, hysterectomy, numerous breast biopsies, and countless other tests. Most of these were done because she complained until something was done (she bragged about that fact that this Doc would do whatever...scarey!) I am really beginning towonder if she would put herself through this pain for the darvocet and the paid time off? It scares me to death that NO ONE in her immediate family sees the danger unfolding here...One lie after another will surely catch up...can someone be that good keeping all that she tells straight?
    Thanks again, all I can do is keep my eyes open and my ears to the ground in order to protect my Father in law because he shouldn't have to protect himself at this time in his illness.

    debbyed, P_RN, and prmens
    Thanks to you both! The "legaleese" of nursing, licensure and procedure, if you will, is not something a layperson knows...your knowledge that you shared helped me understand a little better. When she asked me to take her to this "meeting" with the State Board, I asked her whether or not she needed an attorney. She said no, that with her she had letters of recommendation and praise from her CURRENT employer. That (again) this wouldn't take but about 10 mins. or so and no big deal. I couldn't bring myself to take her---way to much like supporting the lying, I guess--so I suggested she ask her husband to take her. Well, needless to say, she felt like he'd "just want her to hurry up so they could head home"...HMMM...anyway I ask her if she had anything from her counciling sessions that she needed to take. She replied that her counselor said that she was no more addicted to prescription drugs that he was. I didn't press the issue, figured I'd gone as far as I could go at that time. Anyway I happened to see the certified letter the state sent. It stated that she had been written up for unprofessional behavior, charting errors, falling asleep on duty (she worked days) and declining job performance. She didn't know I saw this, but I knew deep down she was up to her neck in it and this really let me know it. She continues to claim after her "visit" that there is no discipline against her. Maybe they didn't, but I know there is some serious stuff happening. Her co-workers that confided in me have been friends of mine since high school (small small town) (Mayberry??) and were very uncomfortable divulging this information. One told me that although she couldn't live with herself if something happened to my SIL, she also couldn't buck the trouble when the SIL found out she'd went to the administration. SIL had seniority over her and the 2 or 3 other nurses in their outpatient clinic. She was "very good friends" with the cardiologist and the orthopedic docs that made up this clinic. Apparently if the SIL didn't care for the other nurses...they ended up somewhere else in the hospital. I have been checking our state web site, but nothing yet. I believe her visit was on Aug 10, so it might be a bit idea how long a thing like that could take to be settled. I do know she has been talking about changing jobs, to work in different towns away from home, and possibly even change careers altogether. I guess as long as I can keep her from trying to give my Father in law medical advice and keep her from seeing to his meds, it will all come out in the wash. THANKS WHOLEHEARTEDLY!

    Went shopping for one...really I did! Hope the Mother in Law will understand.

    When they told me to listen to you, I truly believe they have the utmost respect and faith in you! And they are right. I feel sick that I am standing here in one breath trying to ferret her out and trying to keep her from killing herself, some innocent patients, or god forbid any other of the people I love and care about. I have seen that her entire family believes she is being "railroaded" by her past employer, and if I try to show them that they've been lied to repeatedly and for who knows how long, we will end up having a terrible family feud. And I might even have gone to that just get it out in the open before it is too late...if it hadn't been for my father in law's condition. I don't think he could take it if all his kids were at it, and I love him too much to put him through that worry and hurt. I'm not the type to turn away when someone needs a helping hand, but what am I left with until something serious happens (God Forbid) and it is blatently in their faces? Thanks again, and God Bless each and every one of you as you do your jobs. Know that you have helped me with this more than you can imagine...Thanks again.
  10. by   Belle
    Well, some time has passed and for all of you who took the time to help me with my dilema, I thought I owed you all an update. The sister in law is still attempting to sue her former boss and co-worker. I has been tied up in court now for over a year, with nothing concrete happening. Unfortunately, however she did apparently "help" herself to my father in law's pain meds. The pain he's experiencing with his bout with bone cancer has become difficult for him. My Mother in Law was keeping his meds in the nightstand beside his bed. (which I begged her not to do) Anyway, after JUST filling his prescription, my MIL discovered that HALF of a 30 day script was gone. Amazing.... After confronting the SIL she told me that "she (SIL) said that it was undoubtly a miscount from the pharmacy! I almost died thinking that she expected us to buy it. My MIL didn't persue it any further but decided to finally lock up the meds. Now the SIL just asks for a percocet, vicoden, darvocet or whatever. My MIL sighs and says that "she doesn't have any". I've tried to explain to her that by not facing up to the SIL's problem, that she's only making it worse, and it could be deadly. After all this transpired, I took it upon myself to tell the SIL's husband of the incident. True to form, he just "couldn't quite believe that." He wasn't mad or upset when I suggested he talk to his mother to verify the facts. But just continues to ignore it. Since my last post, the SIL has been hospitalized about 6 times, for neck, back, shoulder pain, pneumonia and blood in her stool. I'm wondering if it's for the meds or maybe the drugs are taking their toll on her system. She's now employed at a correctional facility (???appropriate) as a nurse, and I'm sure her access is more limited than ever, as she's been known to bum and borrow Tylenol 3 and her other favorites from folks who are "finished" with them. If, in fact her medical problems are real, what are the effects that these drugs have on the body long term? What does one need to look for to identify a toxic situation?
    Thanks again...
  11. by   -jt
    Most states have some kind of help for nurses with addiction or those who are suspected of such. Unfortunately, hers is not a rare or unique problem. You can call your states nurses association, explain your suspicions & ask for direction. I saw my state's video about how nurses can handle this kind of thing with a peer who is in trouble & the one doing the confronting picked up the phone & said "I dont believe you. If you dont make the call for help now, I will turn you in myself". If she is ready, she will take the phone. If after your intervention, your sister in law still refuses to get help, you can only step back, leave her to herself, and protect your father in law. You cant stop her from hurting herself if she isnt ready to stop. Its sad & its hard to detach, but if she isnt ready, there is nothing else you can do, except wait for her to hit bottom & be there when she does finally ask for help. If she is in NY, our state nurses association administers an excellent program that has been adopted by the state & is available to all NY RNs & LPNs. See:

    If she isnt in NY & you cant find any resources in her state to guide you, you might just call this one & ask for advice anyway.
  12. by   jfpruitt
    This may be a silly nieve question coming from a 4th semester soon to be RN, but, how are RNs getting these drugs??? In all my clinical rotations, it seems that narcotics are so closely monitored that you'd be caught so easily if you tried to steal them? How would a RN steal them? Maybe I'm nieve, but I just don't get it.....
  13. by   emily_mom
    People sign them out and never give them to a pt....or say they dropped it and no one watches them waste it...or they just plain out steal them...

  14. by   cactus wren
    Have worked with several nurses over the many,many years...One would sign out the narcotic, and give the patient only a little, and then hide the syringe ,and inject the rest into herself at first opportunity..Another would sign out pills, and then give the patient only 1, or just give them tylenol....And , then they would both bug the docs to up these patients pain meds, because the patients weren`t getting pain relief....
    Glad i have never been a pill taking kind of person. I am sure that there are over ways to do this..Gives me the shudders....