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Legal/ethical question

Posted

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

My first (and only) job out of nursing school was on a particularly difficult floor. I got the job because my nursing school buddy campaigned for me. One evening as we were having dinner before our shift, he confessed to me that he was stealing patient's meds. He also told me another nurse on the floor had shown him how to "get around" the safeguards on the narcotics cart. He claimed that that was how everyone on our unit got through their first six months.

I was shocked, but did not know what to do. I did not report it; he never appeared impaired on the job, and the drugs he admitted to stealing (Ambien and Ativan) were both things that had been prescribed to me by my doctor, to deal with the stress of my new job. I know that is no excuse, but it was my rationale at the time.

Am I legally liable for not having reported him? Or does it fall under "hearsay?" Does anyone know of a resource in NY State that I can call? This is an issue now because I am about to use this experience as the topic of both papers for the Nursing Ethics class I am currently taking. I don't want to lose my RN license!

BTW I am no longer at that hospital, am not working as a nurse at this time

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

First, I don't believe we can give legal advice on these forums.

With that disclaimer said, I'd like to continue.

My suggestion to you, NewnurseNYC, is that you seek professional advice. If you have Nursing Malpractise-type insurance, utilize their services. They often have RN/JD's that can advise you on an appropriate course of action to take.

Having been in a similar situation, that's just what I did. Without going into detail, I'll let you know it was a difficult situation. But the situation was rectified and, most importantly, I kept my license. It was truly a learning experience.

The best to you, newnurseNYC.

Dave

NewnurseNYC

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

Thank you Dave;

I agree, this is not the forum to seek legal advice. I'm just not sure WHERE to seek legal advice!;-) I dropped my malpractice insurance since I was not practicing as a nurse...perhaps I should have sprung for the $ to keep it!

Or maybe I just need to suck it up and spend a couple hundred on a lawyer....

Thanks!

Jess

Cant you just do your paper on it and not use yourself as the person who was told? Like a case study of a nurse who told you this?

coolpeach

Specializes in ER/Ortho.

I am confused. You have decided to turn in your friend after all of this time.And the only reason you are giving for this is because YOU want to write a paper, and YOU don't want to get into trouble.

This seems kind of like an ethics issue in and of itself.

HyperTension

Specializes in ED (Level 1, Pediatric), ICU/CCU/STICU.

Where to begin... Ethically, I'm not sure. From a personal standpoint, you need to make it very clear to him that this behavior needs to stop. There is no excuse / justification for stealing a patients medications. If one needs to be on something, then he/she needs to be evaluated by their PMD for a script. If there is a a sentinal / near-sentinal event, and that nurse is impaired, and you knew that the individual was consuming.... ??? What happens when they urine screen or gas spec. his hair and test positive for substances that have not been prescribed then link that back to the missing medications? He is not the first to "get around the safeguards". It's not fool-proof, it never will be be as long as a human is involved in the loop of administering medications. I can't imagine us not being liable on some level.

Sooner or later it will catch up if this really is occuring. Is his / their license worth it? One can absolutly appear "not impaired"... look at functioning drunks.... and still "do the job" in their view.... all the way to the accident. Is it worth the patients life, personal respect, the very license that he worked very hard for? If he needs something for anxiety / sleep, see your doc, It really is OK. What stigma is worse, the one where you swallow your pride and say you need help for a legitimate issue, or where you are questioned by state police (theft / consumption of a non-RX controlled substance is a felony), evaluated by multiple therapists, restricted license (at best) by the state board, going through random tox. screening for 6 months to 2+ years... Really, is it really worth it?

Our profession will attempt to work with an individual through their addiction, there are avenues to to get / stay clean, as well as anon. reporting lines one can call if he/she feels that they are working with an impaired nurse.

Now that your no longer with that institution, your probably in the clear, but from an emotional / personal standard viewpoint are you really?

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Okay Jess, here's more:

By all means consult a Professional. And keep that Professional up on the status.

Before I contacted my Professional, I informed the other Individual. I gave the other person a chance to rectify the situation. When inadequate actions were taken, I also informed this Individual of the course of action that I was required to take. Perhaps I took this course of action because I truly liked the other Individual.

I adhere to the concept of always putting principles before personalities. As I said before: It was adifficult situation. But it was the best thing to do. For all involved.

Dave

NewnurseNYC

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

I am confused. You have decided to turn in your friend after all of this time.And the only reason you are giving for this is because YOU want to write a paper, and YOU don't want to get into trouble.

This seems kind of like an ethics issue in and of itself.

Ok you have a point. I am not turning him in now, for the record, as I am no longer at that hellhole. I did not turn him in at the time because honestly, I just did not know what to do. I had been sharing with him about how stressed and insomniac I was, and that was what he countered with. He is a bit of a drama queen, so I was hoping he was exagerrating...

How was I supposed to turn in the person who got me the job? I would have been fired instantly (on some pretense). It took me six months to get that job...times are tough for new nurses.

coolpeach

Specializes in ER/Ortho.

Glad you see the irony..I am not judging, but just saying.

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Cant you just do your paper on it and not use yourself as the person who was told? Like a case study of a nurse who told you this?

I didn't address this. I'm glad you did, MJB2010.

And, I agree. For example, anyone who reads my post knows nothing of the title or even gender of the other Individual. Confidentiality can apply to all involved individuals, if we so chose.

Dave

NewnurseNYC

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

Now that your no longer with that institution, your probably in the clear, but from an emotional / personal standard viewpoint are you really?

I hear you. Honestly, I witnessed so many atrocities at that institution in the mere three months I was there that that was just one of many. That is why I am not nursing now. Until I can find a job in a place that treats its patients and nurses like humans, and adheres to some moral standard; I don't want to be involved.

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Ok you have a point. I am not turning him in now, for the record, as I am no longer at that hellhole.

Okay. So you're NOT "turning him in".

This is one sticky wicket.

And here's something else to chew on: The RN/JD who advised me said that I was responsible to see the situation to an end. Otherwise, I was liable.

I don't think that seeking Professional advice is turning one in. I believe it's CYA.

The past can come back and haunt you.

Dave

NewnurseNYC

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

MJB2010 & Davey Do-

That is an excellent idea! It is supposed to be a personal experience, but I guess it still is if another nurse told me. And that would definitely apply the hearsay rule. Thanks!

Jess

Ok you have a point. I am not turning him in now, for the record, as I am no longer at that hellhole. I did not turn him in at the time because honestly, I just did not know what to do. I had been sharing with him about how stressed and insomniac I was, and that was what he countered with. He is a bit of a drama queen, so I was hoping he was exagerrating...

How was I supposed to turn in the person who got me the job? I would have been fired instantly (on some pretense). It took me six months to get that job...times are tough for new nurses.

I am confused. If you had reported him to the NYSDOE, whom is our reporting agency, how would the employer know, they are not informed. The violating nurse is the one notified. If you are questioning your ethics, you should. You failed to follow our NPA.

GrannyRN65

NewnurseNYC

Specializes in critical care/ PCU.

I honestly had no idea that the NYSDOE was who to report it to. They don't teach you these things in nursing school. I thought I would have to report it to my Nurse Manager--who was a pretty scary woman. And I am not scared by many people.

I am questioning my ethics in my lack of action in that situation, just so you know. In hindsight, there was a general lack of ethics on that unit. I was just trying to keep my head above water....to no avail, as I got canned anyway.

I honestly had no idea that the NYSDOE was who to report it to. They don't teach you these things in nursing school. I thought I would have to report it to my Nurse Manager--who was a pretty scary woman. And I am not scared by many people.

I am questioning my ethics in my lack of action in that situation, just so you know. In hindsight, there was a general lack of ethics on that unit. I was just trying to keep my head above water....to no avail, as I got canned anyway.

The NYSDepartment of Educatin is the licensing agency for a number of professions in New York State. You go their website and plug in your profession and go to your site. As a professional nurse you can report any violation to that website. You do not have to fear putting your own license in danger. Please remember that. What are you currently studying that you have an ethics class in?

GrannyRN65

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 27 years experience.

Make this simple - choose another topic for this paper and consult a lawyer.

This is beyond the scope of the internet.

BabyLady, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU, Post-partum.

My first (and only) job out of nursing school was on a particularly difficult floor. I got the job because my nursing school buddy campaigned for me. One evening as we were having dinner before our shift, he confessed to me that he was stealing patient's meds. He also told me another nurse on the floor had shown him how to "get around" the safeguards on the narcotics cart. He claimed that that was how everyone on our unit got through their first six months.

I was shocked, but did not know what to do. I did not report it; he never appeared impaired on the job, and the drugs he admitted to stealing (Ambien and Ativan) were both things that had been prescribed to me by my doctor, to deal with the stress of my new job. I know that is no excuse, but it was my rationale at the time.

Am I legally liable for not having reported him? Or does it fall under "hearsay?" Does anyone know of a resource in NY State that I can call? This is an issue now because I am about to use this experience as the topic of both papers for the Nursing Ethics class I am currently taking. I don't want to lose my RN license!

BTW I am no longer at that hospital, am not working as a nurse at this time

Thanks for any advice you can give!

Let's not over-react here folks...this is NOT a legal question she has.

Yes, you should report it.

Here is why: All they are going to do is drug-test the employees or assign someone to watch them. If they fail a drug test or they get caught, then that is their fault.

They are not going to get fired based on a mere accusation...they are going to want more proof since you did not actually witness the theft.

This is especially true if meds are getting diverted from patients, and in my opinion, is patient abuse.

I have zero empathy for nurses that steal drugs.

PS: I agree that you should use another topic for a paper...seriously...that is going to not shed a good light on you if you write that you knew drugs were being stolen and didn't report it.

However, I disagree that you need to seek an attorney...you just need to report it to your nurse manager.

It is not your job, to make sure that the nurse manager does somethinga about it...because of the chain of command...your only job is to report it to the powers that be.

Investigations are confidential and they are not obligated to report back to you of what action they took.

Who cares if the NM is a "scary person"...are you going to back down to a "scary" physician if he writes an order that clearly can harm a patient???