Nurses use their position in patient care to steal fentanyl for their own use.
Nurse Jerome Clampitt II has been sentenced to six months behind bars and an additional six months of home detention for administering the powerful opioid synthetic fentanyl to patients without a legitimate medical reason so he could divert the drug for personal use. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. The pain medication was developed to reduce pain in cancer patients but has been diverted for illicit use in recent years at high rates and continues to be a major threat in the addiction crisis.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Clampitt was working the night shift in a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital when his colleagues witnessed him administering fentanyl via a syringe to a patient, “although there was no medically necessary reason for the patient to receive the medication at that time,” according to court documents. The co-workers reported what they saw, and lab testing found that the patient’s dose of fentanyl had been diluted with saline.
When he has questioned by authorities, the nurse indicated that he had also been diverted drugs for his own personal use. Law enforcement audited hospital records, finding “multiple discrepancies in his handling of controlled substances,” according to court records. Clampitt had only been employed at that location for a month.
Moreover, during the course of their investigation into the matter, federal agents found that he had been terminated in 2019 by another hospital for refusing to submit to a drug test. That location, too, found evidence that he had been diverting drugs for his own personal use and ordered him to take the test to maintain his position.
Ultimately, Clampitt pleaded guilty to the charges against him and, as part of his plea, he admitted that he had knowledge of the dire consequences that his actions could have on the patients he treated. Specifically, he indicated that he knew his patients could suffer “possible infection as well as respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal complications.” His plea was entered late last month.
At the same time, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, registered nurse Sabrina Thalblum, 52, was sentenced to probation for a term of five years for diverting fentanyl for her own personal use in the yearlong span from August 2018 to August 2019,. Thalblum pleaded guilty to one count of “acquiring a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, deception, and subterfuge and one count of adulteration and misbranding with intent to defraud and mislead,” according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa.
Thalblum had used a syringe to draw fentanyl from vials and replace the stolen drugs with saline, according to DOJ officials who also found that she re-glued the caps of the vials to make it appear that they had not been tampered with. “In this way, Thalblum made it appear as if the vials remained new, unopened, and filled with the controlled substance on their respective labels, that is, fentanyl, when, in truth, the Thalblum had diverted some or all of the fentanyl in the vials to herself,” the DOJ announced.
At her hearing, Thalblum admitted she had been addicted to fentanyl during that time and that she abused her position as a registered nurse at an outpatient surgical center to gain access to it. The nurse sought treatment after being arrested, according to court documents, and this helped the judge to offer a lighter sentence of only probation without time behind bars. Thalblum has also not offended since she began treatment.