What can an RN do if terminated for allegedly stealing drugs one month into a new job at a hospital?

By | 2022-05-05T11:54:59-04:00 June 2nd, 2014|0 Comments


Dear Nancy,

I was terminated for allegedly stealing drugs one month after starting a new job at a hospital even though it was because of medication charting errors. I was never told about the errors, was not written up or given a verbal warning.

I have not stolen drugs. I’ve just made mistakes that all nurses new to a unit might make. Other nurses told my unit director I was behaving suspiciously; someone found a syringe in the bathroom on one of my shifts, so my charting was audited. I am worried about my license for something I didn’t even do.


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Monica,

When there is fairly solid evidence that a nurse is diverting medications from a facility, there is no need for prior warnings, verbal or otherwise, since this is a serious issue. The only exception would be if a facility policy or state law existed that allowed or required a first warning or treatment for drug use before a termination took place.

The key is, of course, “fairly solid evidence.” You did not mention if the facility undertook an investigation or just assumed the syringe found while you were working, and your “suspicious” behavior, was enough evidence to terminate you. How did the syringe get connected to you? Were there other nurses working with you on the day/evening in question and did they have access to syringes and/or administer injectable medications as well?

Another fact you did not mention was what type of medication charting errors you made. Were there omissions in your documentation? Were you signing out more medications/narcotics for patients in comparison to the staff members with whom you worked? Did the patients to whom you administered these medications complain that they did not get relief from the medications? What did the chart audit indicate?

You will need to have this information to help you defend yourself if the data is favorable to you. It will be especially essential if you are reported to the board of nursing. You cannot easily obtain this information on your own. Instead, you should consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works with nurses who have been terminated (employment lawyer) and also represents nurses before the board of nursing.

He or she can help obtain this information, evaluate it and see what your next legal step may be. If the hospital did not investigate the allegations or the audit properly, you certainly will have a chance to refute the allegations before the board of nursing and may also be able to at least clear your name by having the termination reversed or categorized in another way (e.g., resignation) if you do not want to go back to work there, or if the employer does not want you to return as an employee.



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