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Nurses on drugs. How many patients have suffered?

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Would it surprise anyone to learn that drug use is widespread among hospital employees? I think not. There is even a new TV show called Nurse Jackie, whose main character played by Edie Falco, is clearly addicted to prescription drugs and trades sex for drugs with the hospital pharmacist. The creators of the show have made the Nurse Jackie character the most competent person in the show's fictional hospital. That's all well and good when it comes to creating an edgy adult TV drama, but not in the real world. Real addicts are only competent in their own minds.

Meet Nurse Melony.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article exposing the failure of the California Nursing Board Drug Diversion Program to protect us from nurses on drugs, Nurse Melony Currier is a poster child for nurses on drugs. In one episode, Nurse Melony passed out in her car the morning of her second day on a new job at Starpoint Surgery Center in Studio City, California. Once awakened, she was escorted to a drug-testing facility to provide a urine sample. In the restroom, she injected an anesthetic she had stolen from the surgery center, according to state records and a Starpoint official. Currier had failed repeatedly -- and spectacularly -- at rehabilitation. Over 4 1/2 years, she'd been discovered high in her car at a Hollywood hospital, stolen anesthetics at a San Gabriel Valley hospital, been convicted of burglary after taking more drugs from the same hospital and flunked a drug test.

Melony Currier first landed in trouble on Nov. 8, 2001, when she was arrested for stealing Demerol from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, CA. (She later told board investigators that she'd stolen drugs every day for months.) Nearly two weeks after her arrest, while working at Planned Parenthood in Van Nuys, she was found collapsed in the bathroom, injecting herself with the general anesthetic propofol - the stuff that killed Michael Jackson. Two days after that, she returned to Providence St. Joseph and stole more of the drug, board documents say. She was later convicted of misdemeanor theft in the Van Nuys case and petty theft and drug possession in the Burbank case.

Currier, then known by the last name Dietrich, was allowed into the California Nursing drug diversion program in February 2002, The program finally expelled her in 2006 -- after the five relapses. A month after Currier was ejected, according to board documents, she went to Providence St. Joseph, where she'd been arrested five years earlier. Posing as an employee, she said she'd come to collect drugs for outpatient surgery. When questioned, she "fled," board records say, driving 10 miles to Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale. Again posing as an employee, she stole two cases of propofol, according to court and board records. Two days later, on Oct. 18, 2006, Currier was arrested when she returned to Verdugo Hills for more.

The California nursing board filed a public accusation against Currier in March 2007-- nearly 5 1/2 years after the agency first learned of her drug problems. When the board settled the case in 2008, Currier's license was suspended for one year and she was put on probation. As part of the settlement, she admitted the allegations. Currier is now free to practice nursing with restrictions.

She may stay off drugs, but it seems unlikely. How many more patients will have to suffer because of Nurse Melony and others like her?

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