Local News

ER Nurse Faces Charges of Pocketing, Taking Pain Drug

Posted January 4, 2007 12:19 a.m. EST
Updated January 4, 2007 12:41 a.m. EST

— 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."