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Traveling nurse cleared of stealing meds from Watertown hospital

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A Jefferson County grand jury has cleared a traveling nurse of allegations that she dispensed medications at Samaritan Medical Center without proper documentation or authorization.

The jury Thursday returned a no-bill in the case of Dawn R. Harrison, 46, Dolgeville, determining that there was insufficient evidence to support a count of first-degree falsifying business records and a second allegation brought under state Public Health Law that she improperly dispensed narcotics.

Ms. Harrison was one of three traveling emergency room nurses accused of similar activities in June. While a fourth nurse, a Samaritan employee, also was implicated, Samaritan officials said the four did not act in concert. Officials said at the time of the arrests that an auditing system had shown that the nurses were falsifying records to cover up the theft of narcotics. Hospital staff became suspicious of Ms. Harrison when it allegedly was found that the caps of three prescription medicine vials had been removed and then glued back on during her shifts, indicating that medications had been improperly dispensed from the vials.

However, Ms. Harrison’s attorney, Aaron D. Carr, Watertown, said that he “never saw any evidence” that Ms. Harrison diverted any narcotics and that the records he was provided also did not support the allegations.

“It’s been her position that any sort of errors that they attributed to her were normal errors that could have occurred to any other nurse in an emergency room setting,” he said.

Mr. Carr said Ms. Harrison has been a registered nurse for 14 years and a traveling nurse for eight years with no prior accusations of diverting or using narcotics. He said the charges brought against her in Watertown have left her unable to find employment as a nurse.

“Her life has been pretty much devastated by her arrest,” Mr. Carr said. “Basically, I think that she feels, and I agree, that her name was improperly slandered as a result of this.”

Charges against the other two traveling nurses and the Samaritan employee remain pending. Traveling nurses work under contract to help ease nursing shortages. To be hired, they go through duplicate interview processes, background checks and drug tests with both a nursing agency that places them and the hospital where they work.

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