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Opioid crisis among nurses affects patients' safety

The medical community is hardly immune from the opioid epidemic in this country. In fact, doctors, nurses and other staff members may steal medication from patients -- especially patients who aren't theirs.

Stealing prescription painkillers from patients isn't a new problem, but it can lead to unexpected consequences. For example, one hospital saw five different patients develop infections in their bloodstreams over just five weeks.

When an investigation was launched, the hospital discovered that a single nurse was connected to at least four of the infections. In addition, the four patients shared a few other traits: they all spent some time in post-surgical care and all complained of poorly-controlled pain.

As an internal investigation continued, it was discovered that syringes that should have contained pain medication instead contained saline. Other vials of drugs showed clear signs of tampering and random testing of syringes stored in the hospital pharmacy showed more drugs had been switched out for saline. In total, the hospital found over 40 syringes that should have held painkillers filled with saltwater instead.

Ultimately, one nurse tied all five patients together -- the four that she tended to in post-operative care and the fifth patient -- her father, who lived with her.

While investigators were ultimately able to determine the nurse behind the infection, it's hard to say exactly how many patients suffered needless pain because she stole their medication. She sickened five people and one died because she brought tainted saline from home to refill the drug syringes.

This isn't the first time patients have suffered infections and intense pain because of a nurse's addiction. However, hospitals continue to make it difficult for nurses to receive adequate substance abuse counseling and treatment. This just ultimately endangers more patients, rather than helping them.

When a member of the nursing staff puts you or others at risk, the best thing that you can do is contact an attorney. Our firm has attorneys who are experienced with nursing negligence issues and may be able to help you.

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