A nurse working in Virginia is facing federal charges after officials say she stole medications from her employer and then attempted to sell them on the streets.
Our D.C. drug crime defense lawyers know that cases like this are not as rare as one might think.
Registered nurses go through intensive training to work long hours, sometimes during odd shifts, and the schedule often precipitates addiction.
The American Nurses Association estimates that about 1 out of every 10 nurses are dependent on drugs. This is roughly in line with the national average. However, nurses are in closer proximity to a smorgasbord of high-powered substances every time they go to work. The temptation often proves too difficult for someone battling an addiction to overcome. Nurses who work in specialty areas - critical care, oncology, psychiatry and anesthesia - are believed to have higher rates of substance abuse due to the intense physical and emotional demands, as well as the easy accessibility of controlled substances.
No mention of addiction is made in the Washington Post article about the Gainesville Health & Rehabilitation Center nurse who is accused of stealing the painkillers, though it's an obvious inference.
According to reports, the 42-year-old is alleged to have placed orders for Percocet and Oxycodone for her patients. The charts of those patients would show that the drugs had been administered. However, her patients would later complain to other staffers that they had never received their medications.
Administrators began to spot a pattern and allege such reports were only being made while she was on duty.
Other employees began to maintain separate records, due to these suspicions. In all, authorities say that some 315 Oxycodone pills and 435 Percocet pills went missing while under her watch over the summer of last year.
A single pill can be sold on the street for anywhere from $40 to $80.
She was subsequently arrested and later indicted on one count of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.
However, the nurse's defense attorney slammed the prosecution's case, saying it has significant holes in it. The government has the duty to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, she said, adding, "All I'm seeing is doubt."
The attorney couldn't elaborate on the specifics, but said said her client intends to fight the charges.
The nurse has since quit her position at the facility.
Nurses who are arrested for drug crimes, particularly when those alleged actions somehow involve the workplace, are at risk not only for criminal prosecution and the potential loss of a job, but also sanctions from the D.C. Department of Health's Board of Nursing. The board regulates the practices of registered nurses, practical nurses and advanced practiced registered nurses (including midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioners and trained medical employees). Sanctions might include suspension or even revocation of one's nursing license, and therefore the inability to practice nursing.
For these individuals, a strong defense becomes all the more critical.