Franciscan Health nurse pleads guilty to tampering with pain meds

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An emergency room nurse at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville hospital repeatedly tampered with vials of pain medications, including morphine and fentanyl, from an automated medication dispensing system for her own use, authorities say.

Jennifer L. Adams entered a guilty plea to tampering with consumer products, a felony, according to filings Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

Adams worked as a registered nurse at the rural hospital, where she tampered with between two and seven vials of pain medications during every shift she worked between Oct. 1, 2018, and Feb. 18, 2020, according to an information filed by U.S. Attorney Matthew Miller.

As a nurse, Adams was responsible for providing medical care to patients at the hospital, including administering medications that had been ordered by a physician.

The medications in question were stored in an automated dispensing machine called Pyxis MedStation. Nurses could access the machine by scanning their fingerprints and entering credentials.

Adams gained access to the medications without authorization through various means, most often by overriding the Pyxis machine, the information said.

“In an effort to conceal her unauthorized use of the medications, Adams forcibly removed the lids from the vials and refilled them with saline solution,” the information said. “Adams used super glue to reattach the lids to the vials. Adams then returned the vials to the Pyxis Med Station using the override function, knowing that they could be used on patients in need of pain relief.”

Adams administered the saline solutions instead of prescribed pain medication to between 30 and 40 patients, the court documents said.

In addition to morphine and fentanyl, Adams tampered with vials of hydromorphone and ketamine. All of those drugs are powerful painkillers that can be highly addictive.

Franciscan Health emailed this statement to IBJ:  “The nurse’s employment was terminated and appropriate authorities were notified. Franciscan has fully cooperated with authorities in relation to this matter.”

The Indiana State Board of Nursing suspended Adams’ nursing license in 2020.

Adams faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up of $250,000, according to a penalty sheet filed with the court. The case was assigned to James Patrick Hanlon.

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