116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
An Iowa nursing home worker who admitted stealing a resident’s painkillers says the stress of watching more than a dozen COVID-19 patients die alone contributed to her use of cocaine and other drugs.
The Iowa Board of Nursing recently suspended the license of nurse Kelsey Baxter of Waterloo, in part for the theft of a patient’s medication.
According to state records, Baxter was employed at Waterloo’s Friendship Village Retirement Community from September 2009 until May 2021, when she was fired. In April of that year, a nurse aide at the home reported seeing Baxter consume two pills she had pulled from a medication card.
The aide retrieved the card from the garbage and determined the package had contained morphine that was prescribed to a resident of the home. The aide informed the home’s director of nursing, and Baxter submitted to a drug screen that allegedly showed a positive result for opiates.
Baxter was fired and admitted herself to a treatment program where, according to board records, she allegedly admitted to drinking alcohol twice per week, smoking marijuana once per month, snorting cocaine every other day, and taking hydrocodone four to five times per month.
When contacted by a board investigator, Baxter admitted to stealing and consuming morphine that belonged to a resident of the Friendship Village nursing home. At a subsequent disciplinary hearing, Baxter stated she had a history of anxiety, depression and insomnia. Those conditions, she testified, were exacerbated by her work as a COVID-19 nurse specialist, and her mental health deteriorated after watching 14 residents of the home die alone.
She testified that she began using cocaine to stay awake while working long shifts at the home during the pandemic.
After the hearing, the board voted to indefinitely suspend Baxter’s license. She will be eligible to apply for reinstatement only after the successful completion of substance abuse treatment and 12 continuous months of sobriety any time after May 2, 2021, the date on which she first sought treatment.
Upon reinstatement, Baxter’s license will be placed on probation and subject to restrictions for a period of one year.
This article first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch.