Local News

ER Nurse Faces Charges of Pocketing, Taking Pain Drug

Posted January 4, 2007

— A former WakeMed emergency room nurse is due in court Thursday to answer charges that she pocketed a prescription drug she said she had disposed of and took the painkiller at work.

Raleigh police detectives say it happened more than 27 times last October and November.

Kelli Cox, 39, was one of the people who work behind the walls of the emergency room at WakeMed, saving lives. "When someone does something like that, of that nature that is against the law, against the guidelines of their practice, then we should certainly take action," said Deborah G. Friberg, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Wake Med.

Cox was fired after the allegation surfaced.

According to an arrest warrant police obtained, the former ER nurse "purposely dispensed numerous 5mg tablets of Percocet from the narcotic dispensing system and then ingested them while on duty." She also is accused of reporting that the tablets were disposed of in accordance to WakeMed policies.

Hospital officials said they do not think any ER patients were ever in jeopardy.

"We don't believe, based on our observations of the employee, that there was a patient-risk situation, but clearly it's not what we want to see happening," said Friberg.

The hospital's high-tech medication-dispensing system keeps track of who takes what and when. Hospital officials say Cox managed to by-pass the system by pocketing unused pills when she should have thrown them away.

"We take our medication management procedures very seriously," said Friberg. Even so, officials told WRAL, anyone intent on beating the system will find a way.

Cox worked as an ER nurse at WakeMed for more than two years. She was released from jail as part of a pre-trial release program.

Wednesday night, Cox issued a statement saying,  "I take full responsible for my actions. I want to recognize WakeMed and the genuine concern they have shown to me. I am currently in an ongoing intensive out-patient program for chemical dependency, and I am in the process of making full restitution. I deeply regret my choices, and it is my hope that my story can affect even one person in their battle with addiction."


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  • regularguy_nc-at-yahoo.com Jan 4, 2007

    She should apply for a job down at the Wake County Jail...

  • rc25 Jan 4, 2007

    I'm curious. Are there random drug tests performed on individuals working in the medical profession?

  • MedicMomOfAngels Jan 4, 2007

    I would like to respond to several comments thus far. Someone commented that with the high cost of ER visits, no medication should be wasted. This is an errant statement. If medication is dispensed and is not in a secured, sterile package and for some reason the patient is unable to take it, do you really want that medicine being dispensed to you or a love one? Wake Med does a fantastic job protecting patients from that type of thing. As a former coworker of Ms. Cox i can tell you that I NEVER saw her put her patient's in jeopardy, in fact, I saw her go above and beyond to put her patient's needs before anything else. I do not excuse or condone what happened but I applaud her fortitude in taking responsibility for this and for her exceptional patient care as a nurse.

  • echance Jan 4, 2007

    well she just ended a good high paying profession for a few pills. Hope it was worth it........

  • nursevb8 Jan 4, 2007

    I agree, the nursing profession can be a noose around your neck with little praise but plenty of hard work at times. Drug dependency can be high in this profession, but there is no need to broadcast it here, everyone else' isn't. But what I want to know is why medicines are being thrown away--with the terrible cost of ER visits, there should be NO waste!!

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Jan 4, 2007

    Thank goodness no patients were negatively affected by her choices.

  • hollylama Jan 4, 2007

    "One never knows all that another faces until they have faced it themselves."---Very well stated!

  • spiritwarriorwoman Jan 4, 2007

    One never knows all that another faces until they have faced it themselves.
    What this lady needs now is help, and our prayers.
    God bless.
    Rev. RB

  • fvb19562 Jan 4, 2007

    It's nice to see that the comments submitted thus far have been supportive to this young lady. She works in a profession that is demanding and stressful, but not once did she try to use that as an excuse. My heart goes out to her and I hope her recovery process is a benefit for her.

  • klk727 Jan 4, 2007

    I don't understand why this has to be reported on the website and played on the news broadcast. She has admitted she has a problem and is doing something about it. Medical professionals have a high rate of addiction. The Nursing Board is equipped to help her, no need to humiliate her further by splashing her name and picture all over.