Iowa nurses sanctioned for theft, drug errors and falsifying patient records

The Iowa Board of Nursing recently sanctioned several Iowa nurses for crimes including stealing pain medication from patients, medication errors and falsifying patient records.

One such case involves Joanna May of Oskaloosa, who was the focus of a complaint filed with the board in October 2020. The complaint alleged that May abused hydrocodone while on duty as a nurse at an unspecified nursing facility.

According to the board, May had just started a night shift at the facility when she and another nurse, who was preparing to leave for the night, counted all the narcotics. At this point, a blister card containing 19 hydrocodone pills for one patient was in the facility’s inventory and was being counted. May was the only nurse working overnight at the facility, and the next morning a medication assistant started her shift and found the hydrocodone card missing. Later that day, another nurse found the now-blank card in the facility’s shredder bin.

Police were called and May was charged with possession of prescription drugs without a prescription and abusing dependent adults, according to the board. She pleaded guilty to the drug charge and the abuse charge was dismissed by prosecutors. She was sentenced to a year’s probation and a $430 fine, according to the board.

The Iowa court system has no record of the charges against May, which could be the result of a deferred judgment that resulted in the case being removed from court records.

In April 2022, the Board of Nursing charged May with being convicted of an offense directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the profession. She then failed to appear at a hearing on the matter.

The board recently voted to suspend May’s license, which can be reinstated after she is 12 months sober, completes a comprehensive substance abuse and mental health assessment, and meets any treatment recommendations that emerge from the assessment. At that point, her nursing license would be put on probation for 12 months.

More disciplinary cases for nurses

Other Iowa nurses whose licenses have recently been sanctioned include:

– Kristina Cimaglia from Monroe, who is a former employee of Polk County Health Services. Cimaglia was accused by the board of sharing “inappropriate content with a colleague” in December last year while working for an unspecified public health organization. The board’s fee schedule gives no indication of what the content was, how it was shared, or whether it was patient-related. Under a settlement agreement with the board, Cimaglia is required to complete a 30-hour professional ethics training course.

Cimaglia was Polk County’s health care coordinator before her tenure with the county ended in March of this year. The deputy director of the Polk County Health Service said Thursday the agency had not commented on the matter, but added that Cimaglia was not fired and did not resign rather than be fired.

— Jaimee Ulrich von Armstrong, who was charged by the Chamber with committing an act likely to be detrimental to the well-being of a patient and knowingly permitting the use of falsified information in patient records. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified hospital in September 2021, Ulrich administered the wrong drug to a patient when she flushed the patient’s catheter with the wrong solution, and then falsely claimed to have administered a different drug. Pursuant to a settlement agreement with the board, she has agreed to complete 38 hours of medication error training.

Ulrich said Thursday the written settlement agreement was false and that she only had to complete 33 hours of continuing education. She said there were no adverse outcomes for the patient due to her error, which she believes occurred at Avera Holy Family Hospital in Estherville. She said the hospital “came after me” after she refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, citing medical and religious exceptions.

– Tina Bacorn from Durant, who has been charged by the board with misappropriating drugs or medical supplies; falsification of patient records; and unauthorized possession or use of controlled substances. The board claimed Bacorn stole “numerous” controlled substances while working at an unspecified hospital in 2021 and 2022.

In December 2021, the board claimed, she entered a hospital where she was not working and “removed narcotics from a patient in intensive care,” then replaced that drug with saline. Her license has been suspended indefinitely pending the completion of substance abuse treatment and 12 months of sobriety, after which time her license will be reinstated and will be subject to a two-year probationary period.

According to state records, Bacorn has served as a registered nurse for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics since 2019.

— Michelle Hanson of Keokuk, who was accused by the board of forging documents. The board alleged that while she was working at an unspecified healthcare facility and while serving as a director of care, administrator and nurse, she provided her employer with falsified records showing she received the required annual flu vaccine. Under a settlement agreement with the board, Hanson is required to complete 30 hours of professional ethics training.

State records show that Hanson was a state-licensed nursing home administrator for eight years up until last December with no record of disciplinary action taken by the Iowa Board of Nursing Home Administrators.

In what appear to be related cases, two other Iowa nurses — Cathi Coley of Packwood and Julie Helling of Mount Pleasant — have been accused by the board of falsely reporting that they had given the flu vaccine to a supervisor they worked on. The Board issued a warning to Coley and Helling.

– Sherry Fresh from New Hampton, who was charged by the board with failing to assess a patient, committing an act likely to affect a patient’s well-being and falsifying records. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified long-term care facility, Frisch twice failed to give a resident the necessary skin treatment and then falsely documented that she had done so. Her actions allegedly resulted in the resident contracting a bacterial skin infection. Under a settlement agreement with the board, she must complete an 18-hour patient advocacy and ethics training course.

– Emily Crouch from Sioux City, charged by the Chamber with committing an act likely to adversely affect a patient’s well-being. The board alleged that while working at an unspecified medical clinic in March 2020, she “mailed in” the wrong dose of medication for a patient and then referred medication to the wrong patient under the wrong medical provider’s name. In August 2021, the board said, she “sent in” two wrong medications for a patient and then failed to forward a patient’s newly ordered medication to a pharmacy. In March 2022, she allegedly ordered the wrong test for a patient. Under a settlement agreement with the board, Crouch must complete a 15-hour medication error training course.