Drunk Nurse Arrested for Reckless Endangerment
Picture this: you wake up in the middle of the night with insane abdominal pain and call 911 to be rushed to the hospital immediately. Once you get there, the doctors decide you are suffering from acute appendicitis and you have to quickly be prepared for an emergency surgery to remove your appendix. Before you’re put under anesthesia, you notice the nurse prepping you is stumbling around, tripping over chords, and is seemingly having a hard time doing average tasks. Worried yet?
This exact scenario unfolded earlier this month at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, for which a nurse has been charged with reckless endangerment of a patient’s safety, driving under the influence, and public intoxication for showing up to work and then proceeding to work on an appendectomy while drunk.
The story, according to the drunk nurse, Richard Pieri, was that he had forgotten that he was on call at the hospital on February 4 until he received a call around midnight telling him to come into work on an emergency surgery. At that point, Pieri was already four or five beers deep at a local casino, but still decided it would be better to drive while intoxicated to the hospital and work on this surgery than it would be to acknowledge his mistake. In court documents, Pieri acknowledged that he just didn’t want someone else to have to come in while he was supposed to be on call. That is why he decided drunk surgery was a good plan–a great reminder to us all that alcohol can seriously inhibit good decision-making skills. Authorities later visited Piere and asked him if he knew why they were there to chat with him, Pieri nonchalantly responded, “I guess it has something to do with me being drunk on call.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs sent a statement to the Washington Post noting that it will not tolerate behavior like this, especially since it can put veterans who are coming in for care at serious risk. The VA is currently working on reinforcing its guidelines for staff and ensuring that an incident like this never happens again. Pieri’s affidavit notes that he was tasked with prep work that was legitimately important:
[He] was responsible for preparing the patient, retrieving the patient, preparing the materials inside the room, documenting the surgery, and monitoring the vitals of the patient throughout recovery.
In addition, the affidavit pointed out that the operating room, in general, can be dangerous if someone is intoxicated:
[The operating room] is filled with complicated equipment that Pieri needs to operate and has several loose wires and cords that can be tripped on or disconnected by somebody with an inability to properly ambulate themselves.
While details about the patient have not yet been released, reports indicate that he or she was readmitted to the hospital after the surgery for complaints of stomach pains. There is no evidence to suggest that this readmission has anything to do with Pieri’s drunkenness–thank goodness–but he was promptly removed from patient care responsibilities after this incident.
While this story turned out alright (for the most part), it’s a sobering reminder to us all that alcohol can have serious consequences in certain situations. Just because you think you’re alright to drive home, make a large purchase, or even perform a serious medical procedure, doesn’t mean you are. So, think carefully about when and where you drink and make responsible decisions everyone, because no one wants to be that guy who was jokingly asked, “Rick, are you drunk?” after he stumbled into work.