Health Care

Nurse had slurred speech, red eyes, syringes and a vial of fentanyl, UF Health staff says

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A UF Health Shands Hospital registered nurse who tested positive for fentanyl and was diagnosed with opiate use disorder has had an emergency restriction order slapped on her license by the Florida Department of Health.

Emily Sosnowski, whose husband has been sick for over a year, told an addiction medicine doctor she appeared impaired because caring for her husband keeps her from good sleep. Her positive fentanyl tests? From handling her husband’s fentanyl patches.

Co-workers at UF Health Shands Neuromedicine Clinic thought Sosnowski worked while impaired. That’s according to Sosnowski’s emergency restriction order. The ERO says teachers at Shands told management in September that Sosnowski appeared impaired during her shifts. The director of occupational health told Sosnowski’s bosses to document any signs of that.

“Ms. Sosnowski’s supervisor noted absenteeism, specifically that Ms. Sosnowski took long breaks, had unscheduled absences or excessive tardiness, disappeared from the job, and slept on the job,” the ERO says. “The supervisor also observed that Ms. Sosnowski had slurred speech, red glassy eyes, decreasing attention to personal appearance and hygiene, a lack of motor coordination, and flushed color.”

In addition, the supervisor noted inconsistent, error-pocked performance and incomplete assignments. Co-workers “repeatedly complained about her job performance.”

The ERO states “The supervisor discovered that Ms. Sosnowski had multiple syringes and a tampered vial of fentanyl with her.”

Jack Riley, deputy administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, explains the danger that exposure to fentanyl, a synthetic drug commonly sold as heroin, creates for law enforcement officers and the general public.

A urine drug screen tested positive for fentanyl. The confirmation line is 500 picograms per milliliter. Sosnowski tested 5,940 pg/ml.

When Sosnowski told Dr. Scott Teitelbaum her reasoning for testing positive, Teitelbaum didn’t buy it. He also found skeptical her claim that she drinks “one to two glasses of wine, three to four nights a week.”

A blood test came back 242 nanograms per milliliter, which works out to over four drinks per day, according to the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Sosnowski said, as far as opiates, she’d only been prescribed Percocet “on a couple of occasions for very short periods of time.”

Teitelbaum diagnosed Sosnowski with “moderate to severe alcohol use disorder and moderate to severe opiate use disorder” and, in his opinion, couldn’t safely handle nursing duties.

He recommended a “partial hospitalization program with a housing component,” then a contract with the Intervention Project for Nurses. IPN monitors the progress of nurses considered impaired.

Sosnowski hadn’t entered into an agreement with IPN as of June 20.

“Ms. Sosnowski’s failure to engage in recommended treatment indicates that her actions are likely to continue without restriction,” said the ERO, which stated she was restricted from practicing as a nurse until IPN tells the Florida Department of Health she’s safe to do so again.

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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.