It's a method typically utilized by unruly teens and faltering alcoholics: stealing booze from a liquor cabinet and replacing it with water. Jolene Larsen, a former nurse at Merry Haven Care Center in Snohomish, put a narcotic spin on the age-old switcheroo when it came to her patients' painkillers. Unfortunately, just like when parents finally go to make that vodka tonic and find that their firewater is lacking fire, Larsen's co-workers eventually found that some of the morphine handled by the nurse was missing its oomph.
At the hearing, she said she acted "with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of bodily injury."
The plea agreement Larsen signed went on to say:
"One patient under Larsen's care at Merry Haven is known to have received morphine sulfate that Larsen had diluted with tap water. That patient did not receive full-strength morphine when she should have and continued to experience pain."
So for six months the patients at Merry Haven not only had a nurse who was sneaking off with their pain meds, they had one who was doped up half the time too.
Larsen's case is rare, but far from unheard of. With constant access to drugs, nurses and doctors can easily begin to dabble in some of the stock, and if it's opiates (it usually is), things can get ugly quick.
In Minneapolis, Nurse Sarah May Casareto stole 350 of a patient's 500 milligrams of fentanyal before his kidney surgery, telling him to "man up" and take it. Maria Mihalik in Superior, Wis., went around to patients' rooms and sucked out morphine from their IV bags with a syringe. Kimberly Shannon King stole pain pills almost daily from elderly patients at a hospital in Shalimar, Fla., and it took two secret video cameras (she stole one of them) to catch her in the act.
Hell, some people who aren't nurses pretend to be nurses just so they can steal meds.
Point is, it's a slippery slope working around drugs all the time. Larsen got caught slipping.