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Diane Dimond
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Be Careful Whom You Trust

Comment

My Aunt Wilma was a registered nurse working in my pediatrician's office. If I close my eyes, I can still see her in her white uniform, red hair and waffle-soled shoes. She was the one I always wanted to see when I was sick. I have a great respect for nurses, but here's a warning.

If you go to a hospital, please, be careful whom you trust.

The shortage of nurses has many hospitals hiring members of traveling nurse services to help. Most are as caring as Aunt Wilma, but those who are not can easily hide their criminal misdeeds by simply staying on the move.

While traveling nurses must be licensed, it's a murky area. A license in one state can be used just about anywhere.

A case in point is a patient in California I'll call "Sarah." She went to the hospital in January 2007 with a crippling stomachache. After a faulty surgery, she remained in the hospital for months, an infection set in and she temporarily lost her eyesight.

The first person she met at this prestigious Los Angeles hospital, she says, was an emergency nurse named "Joseph" who took her personal information. She was single, a film producer at a big studio and it was obvious she had money. Unbeknownst to Sarah, she had become a target. In less than a month, Joseph got his hands on her business stationery and wrote letters declaring himself a highly paid producer. With that, he reportedly got a fraudulent mortgage for a house in Louisiana.

Sarah was able to go home for a while but soon returned for another lengthy stay in another hospital closer to her home in Burbank, Calif. Guess who showed up? Yep. Nurse Joseph.

Now that Sarah is able to think with a clear head, she realizes he was always at her side. Her eyesight remained fuzzy so he helped with e-mails, went to her house and office to retrieve things and administered her medication. She was almost constantly in a state of over-medication. When she was finally well enough to be discharged, she naively hired Nurse Joseph to care for her at home.

Sarah has had terrifying flashbacks since she got Joseph out of her life. She recalled when she was taken for an M.R.I. at 2 a.m. and was told to "Drop your gown" by one of three men. She was able to make out cell phones pointed at her and she now believes photos were taken.

She also recalls other nurses calling Joseph her "boyfriend" and Sarah discovered Nurse Joseph was not even employed at that second hospital; he just kept showing up. No one asked questions. Sarah remembers pelvic pain and unexplained bleeding while hospitalized.

When Sarah was finally able to return to her office and the computer she had allowed Joseph to use on her behalf, she found he had downloaded cell phone video of someone having sex with her lifeless body in a hospital bed! Sarah says she's sure it was Nurse Joseph and wonders why the hospital refuses to apologize to her for what it allowed to happen.

The California Nursing Board informed me recently that Joseph still has his license. When I informed them about the restraining order Sarah had obtained barring Joseph from three Los Angeles hospitals, the woman on the other line patiently told me that unless a nurse was actually convicted of a crime, there was nothing they could do. I tracked Nurse Joseph down to a hospital in the Virgin Islands, where he worked for several weeks, and to the Washington State nursing board, where he'd applied for a license. A person in Seattle told me it was likely he'd be approved since he'd never been convicted. It's believed Joseph has worked in hospitals in at least six states.

So why hasn't Nurse Joseph been charged with a crime? Because when Sarah finally fully realized what happened and went to police, she was frantic, angry and demanding. "Somebody needs to stop him!" she told the police, and as she unloaded her foggy memories, they silently rolled their eyes. She told police when she finally confronted Joseph, he had threatened to kill her and he made references to a baby he'd murdered. Police detectives dismissed her as "a fruitcake," as two law enforcement authorities told me.

If we can track missing cars in this country, why isn't there a national database where complaints and disciplinary problems with nurses can be reported to warn potential employers and patients? The 50 state nursing boards don't share information. One federal system would keep us safer.

Sarah has now reluctantly filed a civil suit against the hospital and she continues to hope somewhere along the line Nurse Joseph will be stopped.

My Aunt Wilma would be appalled.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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