Nurses Charged for Being Under the Influence While On Duty

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on August 30, 2023 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on May 7, 2024

Photo illustration: nursing uniform and stethoscopeTwo nurses have been charged for reportedly being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty.

Rocquel Clark

The Iowa Board of Nursing reported that on June 14, 2022, Rocquel Clark, 34, of Madison County was working a shift at an unnamed nursing home. Multiple workers there that day described Clark as appearing glass-eyed and imbalanced. They also stated that Clark left the facility three times while on duty. When she returned, she brought with her a filled morphine prescription for a patient.

According to the board, workers later discovered that the morphine Clark brought back to the facility had been opened and tampered with. Clark agreed to a drug test, which resulted in positive results for several drugs, including oxycodone and opiates.

Clark was charged with practicing nursing while under the influence of illicit drugs. She was also charged with negligence and failing to properly safeguard medications intended for patients.

Marlys Highland

In an unrelated case, the Iowa Dispatch reported that 61-year-old Marlys Highland appeared to be impaired by something while on her shift in August 2022 at an undisclosed long-term care facility. Ultimately, the board brought charges against Highland for practicing nursing while either impaired by a prescribed medication or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Charges Brought By the Nursing Board

Both nurses faced disciplinary actions by The Board of Nursing:

  • Clark’s nursing license was suspended indefinitely pending the completion of any treatment that has been recommended to her. She will also have to undergo the completion of mental health and chemical dependency assessments. Once Clark returns, she will be on probation for 12 months and will regularly have to undergo chemical screenings during that time.
  • Highland’s license was also suspended indefinitely. Once Highland completes treatment recommended to her, she can seek to have her license reinstated. If successful, her license will be placed on probation for 18 months.

Should Workers Report Nursing Staff Suspected of Being Under the Influence?

According to the American Nurses Association, nurses in Iowa are legally required to report co-workers who exhibit signs of impairment while practicing nursing.

Licensed nursing staff who continue to practice despite being impaired by alcohol, illicit drugs or even legitimate prescription medication pose a number of significant risks, including:

  • Compromised patient safety: Nurses under the influence cannot make necessary critical decisions that could impact a patient’s well-being. They may also be unable to perform timely or life-saving interventions, miss key warning signs and delay providing treatment.
  • Increased risk of medical errors: Giving the wrong medication or the wrong dosage can jeopardize a patient’s safety or lead to adverse drug reactions and other dangerous complications.
  • Unable to communicate with other staff: The ability to communicate the state of a patient is critical. If a nurse is impaired he or she may be unable to convey critical details about a patient. This could lead to treatment delays and other risks that could result in harm to a patient.
  • Lapse in infection control: An impaired nurse might not remember to follow proper protocols or infection control practices that help to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.
  • Loss of focus or attention: While impaired, a nurse could miss critical changes in a patient’s condition, such as vital signs. This could delay assistance that could potentially be life-saving.
  • Poor judgment: A nurse working while under the influence is likely to have impaired judgment. This could result in that person taking inappropriate steps or deviating from established protocols.
  • Compromised professional ethics: When a nurse treats a patient while impaired, it is a breach of trust and a breach of patient confidentiality.

Call PKSD for Legal Help

At PKSD, we are committed to protecting the elderly in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

If you suspect your loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we encourage you to contact our law offices right away.

Our Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers are prepared to help you hold the at-fault party accountable for actions that caused your loved one harm. We also accept cases in Iowa and New Mexico.

Your initial consultation is completely free, and we do not charge any upfront fees if we represent you.

Experienced Lawyers. Proven Results.  414-333-3333

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