JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — A former Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) travel nurse will spend 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to stealing narcotics that were meant for patients in 2021.
Jacqueline Brewster, of Belfry, Ky., will be granted judicial diversion after her guilty plea to one count of obtaining narcotics by fraud. Other than the 30 days, which she is to begin serving Oct. 1, Brewster’s four-year sentence will be suspended and Brewster will be on supervised probation for that amount of time.
Brewster, who worked several months at JCMC in spring 2021, later got a travel job at a Beckley, W.V. hospital where she was accused of doing something similar in early 2022.
Unlike the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), West Virginia authorities quickly slapped Brewster with a summary suspension of her nursing license.
“If you do everything you’re supposed to do during that period of time, you see your probation officer, pay your fines, pay your costs, you serve your jail time and pass all drug screens and most importantly, you don’t commit any other crimes, then you can petition the court for an order of expungement,” Street explained.
First Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Scott Shults outlined the facts of the case. He said JCMC contacted a drug task force agent on July 13, 2021. JCMC’s pharmacy manager said the hospital had opened an internal case after discovering multiple syringes of Dilaudid had been tampered with.
On July 30, doctors told the DTF agent that Brewster had accessed drug bins “both on and off the floors that she had been working on multiple times during her short time working at the hospital.”
Other instances involved medicine that was charted as being withdrawn but not being given to a patient. That was traced specifically to incidents on June 7 and June 16, 2021.
During its internal investigation, JCMC requested Brewster submit a urine sample, Shults said. After an employee got the samples, “she then forcibly took the samples from the medical center employee, exclaimed ‘that’s my pee,'” Shults said.
“She then proceeded to pop the top off the containers and pour the urine down the sink. That was considered a failed screen.”
Street said he was accepting the agreement “because the state and the defense know more about your case than I do.”
But Street warned Brewster that one of any number of mistakes could spell much sterner consequences for her. He said judicial diversion is a one-time opportunity.
“Given the facts and circumstances of your case, though, if you don’t do everything that you’re supposed to do exactly, if a violation is filed in this case, if you fail a drug screen, you fail to do something they ask you to do, they’re going to bring a warrant for you,” Street said.
“I’ll hold you without bond and I’ll consider making you serve this entire sentence, you understand? So you’d better follow their rules exactly. If not there will be greater consequences for you.”
Ballad Health issued the following statement after learning of Monday’s outcome.
“What this nurse did was a disservice to her profession and potentially impacted patients in our hospital. We trust the judicial system to deal with the consequences of what she did but as a health care professional she did the worst possible thing you do – she violated the trust of her profession.”
Brewster’s attorney asked that she be allowed to serve her 30 days on weekends. When Street asked why that was necessary, Brewster said she was in a court case related to a divorce and needed to be available for court to keep from losing her house and car.
Street denied the request and said it’s very difficult for everyone involved, from defendants to the jails and court system, to complete 15 consecutive weeks of weekends without someone making at least a minor error that could result in her having to serve the entire sentence.