In 2020, Donna Monticone worked for Yale Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic in Orange, Connecticut where she was responsible for ordering and stocking narcotics.
She started to use and steal Fentanyl. Initially she would remove the drug from the secured file, inject herself, and then add saline to compensate for the taken volume of Fentanyl. Eventually, she began taking vials to her home where she not only injected herself with the drug but would, as before, replace the taken Fentanyl with the same volume of saline before returning the corrupted vials to the clinic for use on unsuspecting patients. The sad part is that the patients undergoing surgery who were being administered Fentanyl as an anesthetic actually were receiving a diluted saline/Fentanyl mixture or just saline. Patients were writhing in pain undergoing their fertility procedures because of inadequate pain relief. It is frightening when one realizes that these patients who thought they were being given anesthesia actually were not being sedated. I can’t imagine the pain these unsuspecting victims may have felt.
She was arrested, charged and pled guilty to 1 count of tampering with a consumer product. There were 175 empty vials of Fentanyl drug taken from the clinic and discarded in the clinic’s trash.
Monticone will return to court on May 25, 2021 for sentencing where she faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Currently, she is released on a $50,000.00 bond.
She pled guilty only to the charge of tampering with a consumer product which is surprising. She could have pled guilty to theft, possession and numerous other charges. She should have been reported to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and placed on its Exclusions List barring her from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, and all other Federal health care programs.
More importantly, this nurse who, in the middle of our pandemic, developed a substance abuse problem and failed to get help. One year into the pandemic, 89% of nurses still experience elevated stress, anxiety, and depression and at risk of substance abuse. It’s easy to see why some nurses turn to substances to numb their feelings.
I truly believe that nurses do not wake up one day thinking, “Oh! I want to steal narcotics.” It is an unconscious craving that they will do anything to satisfy. It is a serious disease.
It is surprising that no one noticed any behavior issues with Monticone who admitted to using at work. In addition, it’s surprising why no one tested the Fentanyl to figure out why patients were not getting the intended pain relief.
There is no shame in having a substance abuse problem, but you need to get help. However, there is shame in withholding necessary pain medication from patients.
Have you reviewed your policy and procedure from your facility of what to do if you suspect somebody is using medications and is impaired?
The worst experience I’ve ever had as a nurse attorney was hearing about 2 of my clients pass away from unintentional overdose of controlled substances. I don’t want this to happen to another nurse. Check out my interview with Paula Davies Scimeca. She has over twenty years’ experience in addiction and psychiatric nursing and she is a recognized expert on the issue of substance use disorders in nurses. Author of “Unbecoming A Nurse” and “From Unbecoming A Nurse to Overcoming Addiction.” You can also access her books here too.
Help is available.
I would like to hear your comments below.
Rosalind Sartin says
Heartbreaking story, but so necessary.
Pesry Brown says
We had a former addicted narcotic user nurse as an instructor when I trained. It really helped me as although tempted to snitch drugs at work for my own use, this instructor’s training alerted me to that process and I refrained always.
If you are truly concerned about substance abuse amongst nurses and other healthcare providers then I urge you to look at the licensing bodies that control whether you can or cannot practice- to admit to a substance abuse problem and ask for help is akin to career suicide. It is absolutely appalling that these “medical” bodies treat something that is well established as a disease like it is a moral failing. Until the medical and nursing boards stop holding providers to a super human standard and until the toxic expectation of 24/7 perfection in the workplace is changed we will continue to see nurses and doctors die (either by overdose or suicide) and patients harmed, possibly killed because their nurse or doctor was terrified to get help and lose their license. The system fails these brilliant hard working compassionate provides and it endangers staff and patients alike. I beg of you to use your forum to call attention to the real problem here and not place blame or responsibility solely on the sick nurse.