SEATTLE - A woman is accused of posing as a nurse and stealing patients' painkillers while they were in their hospital rooms, watching.
Police said the fake nurse confidently walked into at least three rooms at Seattle's Swedish Hospital on April 13 and also tampered with a machine that administers drugs.
Investigators said the woman didn't get away with a large amount of drugs, but did frighten some patients.
The first patient, who was in southwest tower of Swedish Medical Center, woke up while the woman was still in the room.
He said she was tampering with the machine administering his pain medication.
According to the police report, a nurse found the line from the machine to the patient had been cut, the medication was dripping on the floor and there were pry marks on the machine where the woman tried to gain access to the pain medication inside.
Police said the woman looked much like other medical staff and wore a blue blouse that could easily be mistaken for hospital scrubs.
“Swedish actually has surveillance video, and detectives will go through that to see if anyone recognizes this woman,” said Renee Witt with Seattle police.
Hospital security said about a 2-foot length of tubing was taken and there would only have been a very small amount of the drug in the lines.
Two other patients in different parts of the hospital reported the same type of incident.
When confronted by a hospital nurse, the woman used medical terminology and said she was there to check the machines.
Swedish Hospital told KIRO-7 they were putting their security team on the highest alert Tuesday night. KIRO-7 learned, the rest of the Swedish medical staff didn’t get the same message.
Every Swedish staff member our crews met Tuesday night said they hadn’t heard about the fake nurse, until KIRO told them.
Dr. Sean Toomey, a Swedish Orthopedic surgeon believes the fake nurse must have entered a secure employee door, after a staff member opened it with a magnetic ID.
“That’s the only way she could have gotten into that wing,” Toomey said. “It’s surprising. We care about our patients, and we’re all really cognizant of the people around us in there. We all have IDs, and when someone doesn’t have one, it looks pretty obvious.”
Dr. Toomey says the PCAs, or “Patient-Controlled Analgesic” machines are locked by nurses, preventing someone from taking the morphine vials out. Police say the fake nurse tried to pry the PCAs open, without success.
“We can’t understand why someone would even want to try getting the drugs out (of the PCAs). But people with addictions will do extraordinary things.”
Swedish surgical Nurse Todd Wagner said the fake nurse, who wore a blue scrub-like shirt and black clogs, would have caught his eye immediately.
‘If I were there and I saw her not wearing a staff ID, I would call her into question, ask her what she’s doing in here, and then call security,” Wagner said.
Swedish Hospital released the following statement:
On Saturday, April 13, 2013 an incident occurred involving a woman wearing a scrub top, who posed as an employee and entered two patient rooms on different clinical floors at Swedish/First Hill (747 Broadway, Seattle) and attempted to alter Patient-Controlled Analgesia pumps to obtain pain medication.
An internal investigation involving Swedish security and clinical staff was launched as soon as staff learned of the incident. No harm came to any Swedish patients involved in this incident. Swedish is and has been working closely with Seattle Police over the course of the last week in hopes of identifying the suspect and preventing any further incidents at Swedish or any other area hospitals. Although a delay in reporting the incident to Seattle Police occurred, Swedish security staff continued to investigate the incident.