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Former Kirkland nurse pleads guilty to two federal charges
A former nurse has pled guilty to two-of-three charges related to stealing drugs at a Kirkland plastic surgery clinic.
The Department of Health’s Nursing Commission is also investigating the nurse, Angela Ann Huffman of Seattle, to decide whether she will retain her license to practice nursing.
Huffman was initially indicted on three charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She did not plead for a second count of tampering with consumer products.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to prosecute her for any additional offenses for which they had evidence, according to U.S. District Court documents. Federal prosecutors said that at sentencing the judge is expected to dismiss the third charge.
Huffman was charged after an investigation related to an incident in May 2013 at the Kirkland clinic. A 20-year-old woman was to undergo plastic surgery when another registered nurse administered midazolam, a sedative and muscle relaxant, and fentanyl. The drugs, however, had been switched with epinephrine, which caused the patient’s heart rate to skyrocket, and she ultimately suffered a seizure.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Huffman had been stealing painkillers and stimulants.
The Reporter was unable to determine who or what caused the switch in drugs during the operation in May 2013, and Huffman did not submit a plea on that particular charge.
The Reporter is not naming the Kirkland clinic where the incident took place because it is legally considered a victim in the case.
Before working in Kirkland, Huffman had previously worked at a Bellevue clinic from August 2012 through April 22, 2013. She was fired after staff discovered she had forged 14 prescriptions, using her sister’s driver’s license and credit card at one point. According to the charging papers, Huffman claimed to have developed a narcotics addiction after being legally prescribed drugs in February 2013 by the doctor at the Bellevue clinic. The doctor tried to enroll her in a confidential drug rehab program but she refused and was fired as a result, according to court documents.
After Huffman was fired from the Bellevue clinic, she was hired by the Kirkland plastic surgery clinic three days later to help oversee the clinic’s supply of controlled substances. According to court documents, she did not tell the Kirkland clinic of the circumstances of her dismissal.
After the Kirkland clinic’s staff reported Huffman’s conduct to the Washington Nursing Commission, the following day the commission informed staff Huffman admitted to removing hydromorphone from vials and replacing them with saline.
Although it is possible Huffman may still retain her nursing license, pleading guilty to tampering with drugs makes it extremely doubtful, according to Mary Dale, a discipline manager on the Nursing Commission.
“It really depends on the case and how egregious,” she said. “Tampering is always very serious. That’s not only taking a drug but also putting patients at risk by replacing the drug.”