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Woman poses as nurse to steal pain meds

SEATTLE — A woman who impersonated a nurse tried to steal patients’ pain medications right out of their IVs in their hospital rooms at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, police said.
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SEATTLE — Wearing blue scrubs, black pants and clogs a woman attempted to blend in with hospital staff while she roamed the halls in what appears to be an attempt to steal narcotics.

Police said she first tried to pry open a medication dispensing machine called a PCA and when that didn’t work, she proceeded to cut the patient’s IV line.

“He woke up and confronted her and she says, ‘Oh I’m going to go get your nurse.’  Then she left the room and didn’t return,” Seattle  detective Renee Witt said.

Police said the woman then went to another floor and tried to do the same thing.

fake nurse

“It’s so easy to gain access into hospitals and of course if you need drugs, that is the place to go,” Ben Scaglione said.

Scaglione is one of the nation’s top hospital security experts and recently worked at New York Presbyterian.

“Hospitals tend to be big places and have a lot of entrances and exits. Visitors should be checked in and make sure they belong and that they’re visiting a certain individual. Probably in this case what you’ll find is that woman was probably a patient or visitor at some point so she knew the building,” he said.

Many hospitals require visitors to check in and some provide a badge with a photo on it before you can enter patients’ rooms.

“They do have that system at St. Joes in Tacoma. If you go into the ER you have to get a badge before you visit anyone. That seems totally legitimate,” said Jenny Chambers who was at Swedish visiting her brother.

Other hospitals, like Valley Medical Center in Renton, have staff wear color-coded scrubs that indicate which floor they work on — a policy like this would flagged the fake nurse, who was wearing black pants.

Police are advising all local medical facilities to be on alert in case this nurse impersonator strikes again.

“She’s obviously confident and there is a possibility she may move on to other hospitals. We are hoping that people will be on notice at this point and if they see her to call 911,” Witt said.

SEATTLE — A woman who impersonated a nurse tried to steal pain medication right out of patient’s IV’s, police reported Tuesday. Raw video of the woman was captured on Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center’s camera. If you know or recognize the likeness of this woman, call 911.

SEATTLE — A woman who impersonated a nurse tried to steal patients’ pain medications right out of their IVs in their hospital rooms at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, police said Tuesday.

The suspect remains at large, police said.

The first incident occurred April 13 when a patient told hospital staff that an apparent nurse came into his room and started manipulating his patient-administered pain medicine machine, a Patient-Controlled Analgesia Pump or PCA.

The patient said he asked the woman what she was doing and that she turned and said she would get the patient’s regular nurse.

“When the victim’s real nurse came into the room, she noticed that the victim’s line from his PCA to his body had been cut and that pain medication was dripping on the floor,” police said in a statement. “Pry marks on the PCA were also discovered where the suspect apparently tried to pry open the machine to gain access to the pain medication inside.”

Shortly after that, the same woman was seen on another floor looking into patients’ rooms, police said. A hospital staff member asked the woman what she was doing, to which she responded she was there to check the PCA machines, police said.

“At that point the suspect went into another room where there was family present with a patient,” the police statement said. “The suspect acted as if she was checking the PCA when the alarm went off.  As the suspect left the room a family member noticed that there was blood dripping on the floor and saw the lines to the patient’s PCA had been cut.”

Police said the only hospital property that appears to have been taken was approximately two feet of tubing from the PCA machines and possibly some pain medication from the tubes.

The suspect was described as white, in her mid-30s to mid-40s, with shoulder-length blonde hair pulled back or in a ponytail.  She was last seen wearing a blue blouse (similar to hospital staff “scrubs”), black business slacks and shiny black shoes that resembled hospital staff attire.

“She was described as being very confident walking around the hospital as if she owned the place. She was speaking medical terminology and was just very comfortable,” Seattle Police Department spokeswoman Renee Witt said.

Late Tuesday, Swedish released a statement that read in part:

“No harm came to any Swedish patients involved in this incident. Swedish is and has been working closely with Seattle police over the course of the last week in hopes of identifying the suspect and preventing any further incidents.”

It’s the kind of crime that’s hard to comprehend for family members such as Lynn Etherton, who was at Swedish Medical Center Tuesday visiting her stepfather.

“It kind of makes me nervous,” Etherton said. “I can’t be there 24/7, but when I visit him it would be nice to know that everybody there is caring about him and making sure he’s OK.”

Another visitor at the hospital, Janet Gillies, said, “I think it’s frightening.  It’s not something I would ever thought of happening. It really makes you want to be on the lookout, checking ID and what not. It’s sad that we have to do that, but sounds like we need to.”

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