Nursing student stole fentanyl and injected herself in hospital bathroom, feds say

A former nurse was caught stealing narcotics while working as a nursing student at two separate hospitals in the Boston area, federal prosecutors said.

At one hospital, the woman was found injecting herself with stolen fentanyl in the facility’s bathroom, according to court documents. She was stationed at the hospital’s post-anesthesia care unit at the time, court documents say.

Another hospital hired her after she applied without disclosing the 2018 incident and without mentioning that the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing was investigating her over it, according to prosecutors.

Now, on May 8, a judge has sentenced the woman, 33, of St. Petersburg, Florida, to five years of probation for diverting opioids, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced in a news release.

She will spend the first year of probation in home detention, officials said.

McClatchy News contacted attorney Raymond Sayeg Jr., who represented the woman in the case, for comment on May 8 and didn’t immediately receive a response.

Her sentencing came after prosecutors recommended a six-month prison sentence or six months of home confinement instead, according to a sentencing memo.

Sayeg had argued against a prison sentence for his client, citing her lack of a criminal record and no prior history involving stealing or using opioids, a sentencing memo he submitted on her behalf says.

He wrote that his client was “self-medicating her own anxiety and depression” — particularly during the early COVID-19 pandemic — and her actions didn’t “involve harming others or selling or distributing substances for profit or other gain.”

More on the case

The case dates to 2018, when the woman was working as a Student Nurse Anesthetist after receiving her nursing license in 2017, according to the government’s sentencing memo.

On Aug. 23, 2018, she was found injecting herself with fentanyl in the post-care anesthesia unit bathroom, the sentencing memo says.

Fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and is used to treat patients with severe pain. It can be highly addictive, and illegal use of the drug has been linked to the rise in overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

During an investigation, a search of the bathroom and the woman’s hospital locker revealed an empty fentanyl syringe, containers of the prescription opioid sufentanil, the opioid hydromorphone, morphine and alcohol swabs, according to the sentencing memo.

Afterward, the woman was hired at a second Boston-area hospital where she was first stationed in the cardiac catheterization lab, prosecutors said.

Fentanyl stolen from patient’s infusion bag

When the pandemic began in March 2020, the woman was transferred to a medical intensive care unit where several patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to prosecutors.

Many of these COVID-19 patients received fentanyl through an IV infusion bag as a sedative, the sentencing memo says.

On May 24, 2020, the woman stole a patient’s infusion bag with fentanyl inside as they were being treated with the narcotic, according to prosecutors.

The same day, she took a Narcan kit out of the hospital’s locked drug cabinet, the sentencing memo says. Narcan is used to treat opioid overdoses.

In 2020, the woman was also caught stealing hydromorphone syringes from the hospital’s drug cabinet, prosecutors said.

The woman was fired “when her wrongful conduct was discovered,” according to the sentencing memo submitted by Sayeg.

“The stress of the mandatory placement in the intensive care unit due to the COVID pandemic (and closure of the cath lab) proved too much for her and in 2020 she diverted medication for personal use to cope with stress and anxiety,” Sayeg wrote.

He added that using opioids “made her feel functional” and helped her with panic attacks, the sentencing memo says.

After she was caught stealing opioids in 2020, she permanently forfeited her nursing license, according to the sentencing memo.

The woman pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawfully obtaining controlled substances by fraud, deception and subterfuge in October 2022, the release said.

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