I read a story over the weekend where a hospice nurse had forged prescriptions for narcotics to a patient and picked them up at a pharmacy for her own use. The patient was getting their medications from the hospice contracted pharmacy. A quality assurance nurse saw the discrepancies and notified the pharmacy to verify they were filled. The next time the nurse went to fill a forged script, the pharmacist refused to do so and the nurse was turned into the police by her employer.
The employer’s name was in the newspaper as was the nurse’s and I can just imagine all their referral sources saying, ‘Yeah, right. Let’s refer to the hospice where the nurses forge prescriptions for their own personal use.’ I understand this attitude. I would not refer to a hospice where the nurses were on drugs or forging physician names; much less both.
The disconnect in thinking is that the hospice who turned their nurse into the police is probably the one least likely to have a recurrence of nurses diverting drugs through forgery or any other means. It certainly would be an unattractive place for me to work if I had an appetite for narcotics.
It was incredibly courageous for the hospice to do this. I do not know them and I have no idea how they arrived at calling the police instead of referring the nurse to treatment or the state board. Make no mistake, in and of itself, forgery or altering a legal document is a crime. I don’t think they had much of a choice other than to sweep it under the rug to avoid the bad publicity or to turn her in to the police.
We have seen what sweeping things under the rug can do. The obvious example is the VA hospitals but who hasn’t seen numerous examples of companies or government agencies pretending everything is fine when it is not? Nothing is seen until it is brought out into the light.
Heroic Efforts to Save Lives
The most important result of this action has nothing to do with compliance, or a company’s reputation or even narcotics. We all know about the high prevalence of drug and alcohol use in nurses and we didn’t need another lost soul to illustrate it for us.
Consider that the nurse who found the problem and those involved in making this decision may very well have saved the life of the nurse. Its not often that hospice providers engage in heroic efforts to save lives so it must have felt strange to them. In my eyes, they are heroes in an industry where we need a few heroes. Desperate people do desperate things and altering a legal document knowing the consequences is pretty desperate. A nurse that desperate is not far removed from taking herself out of the game permanently.
So, because the company decided to do the right thing, a nurse has a whole lot to lose including her freedom. Just remember; dead people stand to lose nothing. And that’s a fact.
My gratitude is with the QA nurse and her employer for setting the bar for the rest of us and my thoughts and prayers go out to the desperate nurse and her family so that they may find peace and freedom from disease.