Iowa nurses sanctioned for theft, drug errors and falsifying patient records

By: - November 17, 2022 3:03 pm

The Iowa Board of Nursing has sanctioned several nurses for violations that include theft, drug errors and falsifying patient records. (Photo illustration by Iowa Capital Dispatch; background photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

The Iowa Board of Nursing recently sanctioned several Iowa nurses for offenses that include the theft of patients’ painkillers, medication errors and the falsification of patient records.

One such case involves Joanna May of Oskaloosa, who was the focus of a complaint filed with the board in October 2020. The complaint alleged May misappropriated hydrocodone while on duty as a nurse at an unspecified nursing facility.

According to the board, May had just begun an overnight shift at the facility when she and another nurse who was preparing to leave for the night completed a count of all the narcotics. At that time, a blister-pack card containing 19 hydrocodone pills for a patient was in the facility’s inventory and was counted. May was the only nurse working at the facility overnight and the next morning a medication aide started her shift and discovered the hydrocodone card was missing. Later that day, another nurse found the card, now empty, in the facility’s shredding bin.

Police were called and, according to the board, May was charged with possession of prescription drugs without a prescription and with dependent adult abuse. She pleaded guilty to the drug charge and the abuse charge was dismissed by prosecutors. She was sentenced to one year of probation and fined $430, according to the board.

The Iowa court system has no record of the charges against May, which could be the result of a deferred judgment that resulted in the case being expunged from court records.

In April 2022, the Board of Nursing charged May with being convicted of an offense that directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the profession. She then failed to appear for a hearing on the matter.

The board recently voted to suspend May’s license, which can be reinstated after she completes 12 months of sobriety, completes a comprehensive substance abuse and mental health evaluation, and complies with any treatment recommendations that result from the evaluation. At that point, her nursing license would be placed on probation for 12 months.

More nurse disciplinary cases

Other Iowa nurses whose licenses have been sanctioned recently include:

— Kristina Cimaglia of Monroe, who is a former employee of Polk County Health Services. Cimaglia was charged by the board with sharing “inappropriate content with a co-worker” in December of last year while working for an unspecified public health facility. The board’s statement of charges gives no indication as to what the content was, how it was shared, or whether it was patient related. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, Cimaglia must complete 30 hours of training in professional ethics.

Cimaglia was a health services coordinator for Polk County before her employment with the county ended in March of this year. Polk County Health Services’ deputy director said Thursday that the agency had no comment on the matter, but added that Cimaglia was not fired and did not resign in lieu of being fired.

— Jaimee Ulrich of Armstrong, who was charged by the board with committing an act that may adversely affect the welfare of a patient and with knowingly permitting the use of falsified information in patient records. The board alleged that while working at unspecified hospital in September 2021, Ulrich administered the wrong medication to a patient when she irrigated the patient’s catheter using the wrong solution, then falsely claimed to have administered a different medication. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, she has agreed to complete 38 hours of continuing education on medication errors.

Ulrich said Thursday the written settlement agreement is incorrect and that she must complete only 33 hours of continuing education. She said there was no adverse patient outcome as a result of her error, which she said occurred at Avera Holy Family Hospital in Estherville. She said the hospital “had it in for me” after she refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, relying on medical and religious exemptions.

— Tina Bacorn of Durant, who was charged by the board with misappropriating medication or medical supplies; falsifying patient records; and unauthorized possession or use of controlled substances. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified hospital in 2021 and 2022, Bacorn stole controlled substances on “numerous occasions.”

In December 2021, the board alleged, she entered a hospital where she didn’t work and “removed narcotic medication from an ICU patient” and then replaced that medication with saline solution. Her license has been indefinitely suspended pending completion of substance-abuse treatment and 12 months of sobriety, after which her license will be reinstated and subject to two years of probation.

According to state records, Bacorn had worked as a staff nurse for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics since 2019.

— Michelle Hanson of Keokuk, who was charged by the board with falsifying records. The board alleged that while working an unspecified health care facility, and while serving as director of nursing, administrator and staff nurse, she submitted falsified records to her employer indicating she has received the required annual vaccine for influenza. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, Hanson must complete 30 hours of training in professional ethics.

State records indicate that until last December, Hanson had been a state-licensed nursing home administrator for eight years, with no record of any disciplinary action imposed by the Iowa Board of Nursing Home Administrators.

In what appear to be related cases, two other Iowa nurses — Cathi Coley of Packwood and Julie Helling of Mount Pleasant — were each charged by the board with falsely reporting that they had administered the influenza vaccine to a supervisor where they worked. The board issued Coley and Helling a warning.

— Sherry Frisch of New Hampton, who was charged by the board with failing to assess a patient, committing an act that may adversely affect a patient’s welfare, and falsifying records. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified long-term care facility, Frisch twice failed to provide a resident with the necessary skin treatment, then falsely documented that she had done so. Her actions allegedly resulted in the resident contracting a bacterial skin infection. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, she must complete 18 hours of training in patient advocacy and ethics.

— Emily Crouch of Sioux City, who was charged by the board with committing an act that may adversely affect a patient’s welfare. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified medical clinic in March 2020, she “sent in” the wrong dose of medication for a patient, then directed medications to the wrong patient under the name of the wrong medical provider. In August 2021, the board alleged, she “sent in” two incorrect medications for a patient and then failed to relay to a pharmacy a patient’s newly ordered medications. In March 2022, she allegedly ordered the incorrect test for a patient. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, Crouch must complete 15 hours of training in medication errors.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.