Health Care

Unconscious at work after shooting heroin, working drunk, DUIs: nurses losing licenses

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Substance abuse problems cost eight registered nurses or licensed practical nurses their licenses in the first 12 days of March, according to a Miami Herald check of Florida Department of Health discipline records.

Licenses received either an emergency restriction order (ERO) or emergency suspension order (ESO). While an ERO usually isn’t as serious as an ESO, in these cases, each action prevented the person from legally working as a nurse.

In alphabetical order:

Laura Kay Bilanovic, registered nurse, Orlando, ERO — Bilanovic’s ERO says she showed up to Orlando’s Metro West Nursing & Rehabilitation Center last Aug. 16 “stumbling, slurring her speech, and exhibiting odd behaviors.”

After Bilanovic “cornered and yelled at a coworker,” a Metro West staffer called her out in to talk about it. The staff member saw Bilanovic stumbling and smelled alcohol exuding from Bilanovic. She took the sensory hints and had Bilanovic breath-tested for alcohol.

Bilanovic blew a 0.159, or almost twice the legal limit to drive. Metro West fired her.

In January, the 28-year RN told an addiction doctor assigned by the Department of Health to evaluate her that she had started drinking to self-medicate during the previous year.

The night before her last day at Metro West, “she consumed several shots of whiskey,” the ERO said Bilanovic admitted. “The following morning, she consumed several more shots of whiskey. Ms. Bilanovic stated that she consumed alcohol up until the point that she presented to work at Metro West. Ms. Bilanovic admitted that even after she was terminated from Metro West, she continued to consume alcohol in attempts to self-medicate.”

The doctor recommended treatment and entering a monitoring contract with the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN), the Board of Nursing’s program for impaired practitioners. Bilanovic hasn’t done that. She’s restricted from nursing until IPN or an IPN-approved doctor says she’s safe for work.

Sophie Drehsen, registered nurse, St. Petersburg, ERO — For a significant chunk of the 11 1/2 years Drehsen has been a licensed RN, she’s been up on charges or between criminal cases.

Drehsen pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and resisting an officer without violence in 2011. In December 2017, a cop stopped her as her car was “hanging into the roadway, causing a vehicle to drive around.” That night, she blew a .227, close to three times the legal limit. On Sept. 27, 2018, she got a year’s probation on a DUI charge. One of the terms was no alcohol consumption.

She was arrested eight days later on a disorderly intoxication charge. Officers said Drehsen assaulted the patrons at Mastry’s Bar with loud, indiscriminate F-bombs.

Prosecutors filed No Information, officially saying the “facts and circumstances didn’t warrant prosecution.” That was also the result of Drehsen’s 2015 disorderly intox charge and the 2016 battery case in which she was accused of hitting her live-in boyfriend several times with a lamp.

During a Department of Health-ordered evaluation, Dr. Lawrence Wilson pointed out this pattern. Drehsen said she’d had all of two glasses of wine the previous two months. A blood test came back well beyond the threshold for no alcohol.

In Wilson’s opinion, the “test results indicate that Ms. Drehsen significantly underreported the amount of alcohol that she had recently consumed.”

Also, she was drinking in violation of her probation, which pulled Wilson to the opinion “that despite Ms. Drehsen’s history of alcohol related arrests, Ms. Drehsen has failed to recognize the extent of her abuse of alcohol.”

She is done nursing until IPN or an IPN-approved doctor gives her the green light.

Taniko Hampton, registered nurse, Jacksonville, ERO — Hampton is in a pre-trial intervention program after being charged in separate cases of one count of obtaining a controlled substance. As detailed in a Miami Herald story, Hampton’s ERO said she swapped out pain medication for saline in some syringes.

Kelli Kilppel, registered nurse, Palmetto, ERO — Kilppel got probation after being busted in 2017 driving under the influence — slumped over the wheel under the influence — by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper. Though Kilppel’s ERO said she told the FHP officer he was interfering with her getting her nursing license, she got off probation in May 2018 and got that license in June 2018.

The ERO says Kilppel blew a .281 during a DUI stop in August. Charges from that stop are pending.

On New Year’s Eve, Kilppel met with Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

“Kilppel told Dr. Wilson that she consumed approximately four-to-six alcoholic drinks per day, one-to-two times per week.,” the ERO said. “Kilppel informed Dr. Wilson that she has been unable to reduce the amount of alcohol that she consumes and believes that her alcohol consumption is a problem.”

Her blood tests showed even more drinking than that. So, no nursing until IPN or an IPN-approved doctor clears her.

Jodi Levins, advanced practice registered nurse, Winter Haven, ESO — Dr. Gift Majuara told the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 that after Levins was fired from his company, Massaassa Medical House Calls, she started writing prescriptions with one of his prescription pads. And those prescriptions were for oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance Levins didn’t have the authorization to prescribe.

This put PCSO on the trail of Levins, who had 10 patients in Polk County. Levins, her arrest affidavit said, delivered oxycodone to patients who were supposed to get it. For others, she used their identifications to pick up oxycodone for which she wrote prescriptions, unbeknownst to the patients.

Levins, 53, was sentenced in December on eight counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and six counts of fraudulent use of personal ID. She’ll be on probation with the Florida Department of Corrections until Dec. 2, 2021.

Jodi Levins fitted mugshot. jpeg
Jodi Levins Florida Dept. of Corrections

Sara Miller, licensed practical nurse, St. Petersburg, ESO — Miller’s ESO concerns itself solely with her no contest plea to possession of a controlled substance. That substance was methamphetamine found her contact lens case. Police say after they informed Miller the field test’s results, she jumped out of the police cruiser and demanded they shoot her now. Police refrained.

The ESO doesn’t mention that cops found the meth after finding Miller hiding in a closet when they came to pick her up on a warrant for grand theft and organized scheme to defraud. While in Flagler County jail on those charges, she picked up a charge of bringing contraband into a correctional facility rap as well as a battery charge.

Miller is in Florida prison until April 28, 2020, on the charges.

Sara Miller fitted.jpeg
Sara Miller Florida Dept. of Corrections

Brian Stuber, registered nurse, Naples, ERO — Stuber was one of Armor Correctional Health Care Services workers assigned to the Collier County Jail until an alert doctor noticed his prescription pad showed signs of tampering on Nov. 26. Another sign, when the doctor searched his prescription history: 90 hits of Percocet for Stuber.

The doctor knew he hadn’t written anything for Stuber, the ERO said. When told he’d be placed on administrative leave pending an internal look into this, the 47-year-old Stuber broke down that he needs help with a drug addiction.

Despite Stuber admitting he took five prescription sheets, he pleaded not guilty to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and fraudulent use of personal identification information. Despite saying on Nov. 26 he’d enter a rehabilitation program the next day and on Jan. 14 saying he’d enter an IPN monitoring contract, Stuber has done neither. And he didn’t show up for his March 11 court hearing at which his presence was required.

His ERO restricts him from being a nurse “in any setting in which he would have access to controlled substances.”

Brian Stuber fitted.jpeg
Brian Stuber Collier County Sheriff's Office

Autum Tiso, licensed practical nurse, Port Orange, ERO — According to Tiso’s ERO, she went missing during a March 3, 2018, shift at Bishop’s Glen Retirement Center in Holly Hill.

Before Tiso disappeared, staff members found her “odd and skittish” that day. After Tiso went missing, staff found her on the other side of a locked bathroom door.

“The staff forced their way into the bathroom and found Ms. Tiso unconscious on the floor,” the ERO said. “Ms. Tiso was observed to be “twisted up like a pretzel” with a syringe in her arm. She did not appear to be breathing.”

She survived to tell an addiction psychiatrist she’d shot up heroin a friend brought to work. She said she’s abused opiates for almost 20 years. Heroin was her drug during her New York years, but that became harder to get in Florida, she switched to pain medicine hydromorphone.

Tiso is restricted from practicing nursing until the IPN or an IPN approved doctor clears her as safe to return to practice.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.

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