Neglect and abuse: when the nurse steals the patient narcotics

State agencies including the IDFPR work together to keep Illinois residents safe.
State agencies including the IDFPR work together to keep Illinois residents safe.

On the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) regulates the licensing of Illinois Nurses. In the news recently, one Illinois nurse faces felony drug and neglect charges. On the IDFPR website, using the license lookup feature, Nichole Banuelos, is indicated as disciplined by having her Licensed Practical Nurse (“LPN”) license suspended as of August 29, 2014, “for having diverted controlled substances for personal use from her employees.” The terms of discipline are described on the IDFPR site, which states the following about suspensions: “Professionals whose licenses have been suspended cannot practice during the period of suspension. The term of suspension can range from one day to indefinite. In many instances, the period of suspension is followed by probation.”

Illinois nurse is caught taking patient drugs when she is found asleep at a medicine cart.

On Saturday, June 28, 2014, Mascoutah police in southwestern Illinois near St. Louis arrested Banuelos on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance.[i] Investigations by IDFPR led to allegations in the complaint against Banuelos, that she had fallen asleep at a medicine cart and was diverting narcotics from patients at the rehabilitation and nursing center where she worked. It was alleged Banuelos took Ritalin, Hydrocodone, Atropine, Morphine, Ambien and Ativan from patients. She was fired the same day. Investigations also led to the discovery at another medical facility, that Banuelos failed to feed a patient and failed to give the patient their medication.[ii] She was fired three days later.

Theft of narcotics is a serious problem in the healthcare industry. There are many news reports of nurses and hospital staff with access to narcotics who take them for personal use of for sale on the lucrative black market. The victims, often nursing home and rehabilitation patients, with a wide range of injuries and illness and when they do not receive their prescribed medications, suffer in pain and discomfort at the very least. With the potential for abuse, medication mismanagement and  theft are a top concern of healthcare administrations and the state agencies overseeing their professionals.

State agencies including the IDFPR work together to keep Illinois residents safe.

When a complaint is filed by the IDFPR against an Illinois nurse, the individual must first answer the complaint before an administrative law judge who makes a recommendation to the Illinois Nursing Board, which also makes a recommendation to the IDFPR.

If an individual becomes aware of the wrongdoing of a licensed professional, they may file a complaint with the IDFPR. Here is an IDFPR website link that shares more detail on reporting complaints. Complaints are investigated by the IDFPR but not all reported complaints lead to professional discipline. Michael Favia publishes a link with 10 short tips for responding to an IDFPR investigation.

If you are interested in learning more about Michael V. Favia & Associates, serving Chicago and its suburban communities, please visit the Favia Law Firm website for resources and articles of interest. To contact the firm to speak to a lawyer about a healthcare-related concern, you may dial (773) 631-4580. For more information about the firm’s practice areas, you can also visit the firm’s Facebook and Twitter sites. Please “Like” and “Follow” respectively to keep in touch!

[i] St. Clair County Sheriff police blotter dated 07/08/2014

[ii], Nurse facing drug and neglect charges could lose her license, by Beth Hundsdorfer, Aug. 27, 2014.