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Illinois nurse was high during emergency room shift from eating cannabis, watchdog report says

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A former Stroger Hospital nurse allegedly got high on cannabis and struggled through an emergency room shift last year that entailed administering intravenous injections, according to a report from the Cook County Office of the Independent Inspector General released Friday.

During an unspecified date in 2020, the unnamed emergency room nurse Facebook messaged a photo of a yellow gummy square of edible cannabis to someone who later reported her, according to screenshots provided to Inspector General Patrick Blanchard.

“Omg!!!!! Tingling more now,” the nurse wrote. “All over!!!!!!”

She later added, “But im still gettg my ivs on 1st stick.”

Blanchard’s report concluded the nurse was working an ER shift during the conversation and acknowledged being high and performing invasive medical procedures. She violated Cook County Health personnel rules forbidding use and possession of drugs during shifts as well as engaging in conduct that “reflects adversely or brings discredit to the hospital.” Both are major cause infractions.

Cook County Health released a statement Friday saying that the findings in Blanchard’s report “are extremely upsetting” and noted that the employee no longer works there.

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“Cook County Health works diligently to create a healing environment that is the safest for our patients. We take any allegations seriously and have many safeguards in place to thoroughly investigate matters. We work closely with the OIIG,” the statement said.

The nurse declined a voluntary interview with Blanchard, according to the report.

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In addition, the same nurse allegedly took medical supplies from Stroger Hospital and performed an invasive procedure without a doctor’s signoff, the report said. On March 25, 2020, the complainant invited the nurse over because her daughter and daughter’s fiance were feeling ill. The two agreed to an “IV flush” and the ER nurse came over, the report said.

The nurse offered to give them morphine, the report said, but they elected to just get a saline flush. The nurse had previously given IV treatment to the complainant, who agreed on one occasion to receiving morphine, according to the report.

Such conduct violates the Illinois Administrative Code relating to the Nurse Practice Act’s definition of unethical or unprofessional conduct for a nurse in addition to the Cook County Health personnel rules, according to the report.

As a result, Blanchard’s office recommended the nurse be fired, placed on the health system’s do-not-hire list and face the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for the matter of her nursing registration, the report said.

Blanchard’s investigation involved interviews with those involved, except the nurse, Stroger Hospital staff and witnesses. It also entailed reviewing text messages, videos, time records and drug access medical records.

The report noted a “strained relationship” between the complainant and the ER nurse when the allegation was made but said investigators “placed significant weight” on evidence such as witness statements.


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