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A card of narcotics I locked up is missing, and I'm a suspect. Should I write a statement?

Friday November 6, 2009
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Dear Nancy,

I am an LPN at an EFC. One morning, the RN supervisor asked me to lock up some discontinued narcotics in a box which I only had the keys to. I did not count the narcotics with her or sign anything related to count. She asked me to give them to the unit manager at 8 a.m. I gave them to the DON and the unit supervisor and did not count with them either. At 5 p.m. after I left work, they called me at home and said a card of narcotics was missing. I took a urine test per their request and they required I write a statement. Should I? They said they are going to call the police if the narcotics are not found.


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Denise:

It will be important for you to contact a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who represents healthcare providers and knows criminal law and regulatory law (e.g., the nurse practice act and rules) as soon as possible. The attorney can advise you on what you need to do or not do. Most important, he or she can be readily available for your defense should the police be contacted and also keep an eye toward the possibility of the board of nursing taking disciplinary action against you.

The allegations against you are serious and underscore the importance of following required policies and procedures (that are consistent with state and federal laws) for the handling of narcotics. As I hope you know, narcotics are to be counted by two individuals and documented, and any wasting of narcotics is to be witnessed and documented, as examples. No one can alter those requirements. Since you were the only person with the key to the box in question, the focus of the missing card is now you.

You will need to be honest and open with your attorney about what occurred, identify who was involved when the narcotics were given to you and when you gave them to the DON and unit supervisor, and any and all other details that might help the attorney provide the best defense for you under these circumstances.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.