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Originally published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 9:22 PM

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Fake hospital nurse targeted patients’ pain meds

A woman impersonating a nurse entered patients’ rooms at Swedish Medical Center trying to steal pain medication.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A woman impersonating a nurse is still at large after trying to steal pain medication from patients’ rooms at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle this month.

The Seattle Police Department said the woman entered patients’ rooms at the hospital in the 700 block of Broadway as if she were a member of the staff checking patient-administered, pain-medication machines.

The white woman, described as in her 30s or 40s with shoulder-length blond hair, wore clothes similar to nurses scrubs — a blue blouse, black pants and shiny black shoes.

In the first reported theft, the woman entered a room at about 10:40 a.m. April 13, according to police. The patient asked what she was doing because he didn’t recognize her. As she left, she said she would get his real nurse.

When the real nurse arrived, she noticed the patient’s pain-medication line had been cut and that the medication was dripping on the floor. The machine also had marks where the suspect had pried it open.

Soon afterward, a similar woman was reported on another floor of the hospital looking into patients’ rooms. When a staff member asked what she was doing, the woman told her she was checking the pain-medication machines, according to police.

The suspect was then bold enough, police said, to enter yet another patient’s room while relatives were visiting. But this time, as she fiddled with the machine, an alarm went off, and she left.

A family member told police that blood was dripping on the floor and that the line to the pain-medication machine had been cut.

By the time the suspect left, she had taken about 2 feet of tubing from the pain-medication machines and possibly some medication left inside. A nurse told police the woman couldn’t have gotten away with much because the tubing was so small.

Though the incidents reportedly occurred April 13, the Seattle Police Department said it was not contacted until April 17.

Swedish spokesman Ed Boyle said Swedish clinical and security staff are investigating, including the delay in reporting to police.

In a statement, the hospital said no harm came to any patients, and it has provided surveillance photos to police in hopes of identifying the suspect.

“We take the safety and security of our patients very, very seriously,” Boyle said. Such incidents are an opportunity for the hospital to improve procedures, he said.

Swedish has already cautioned staff members to look for unfamiliar people in their units and to question them, he said.

“We have very well-defined, strict protocols in place,” said Boyle, who added it’s not yet clear why the incident was not immediately reported to police.

“We haven’t completed that part of our investigation yet,” he said. “That will be thoroughly looked at and (protocols) will be more sound than they are already.”

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