Safeguarding patients - a true story

Cate Butnaru
Posted by Cate Butnaru
Blog › General › Safeguarding patients - a true story
Cate Butnaru by Cate Butnaru

Every now and then our users share remarkable stories of how our products changed their lives. This particular story however is very powerful. We are humbled and honoured that our consumer product for iOS backup extraction helped a nurse safeguard patients from staff abuse. It’s a long story, but it’s worth reading.

I will tell you my story. I don't do this with many, but your work on data extraction helped me solve this situation in a way that benefited me and my peers.

I’m a Licensed Practical Nurse. In the company I worked with I cared for patients with cognitive or developmental disabilities. Whenever I went on shift, I would be responsible for giving medication, assessments, appointments and paperwork at two homes, “A” and “B.”

There were a lot of nurses I worked with. This story concerns Shelly and Paula. Then there was also the director of nursing, I will call her Molly, and three direct care staff members: Ralph, James, and Vanessa.

Patients received medications about three times per day, within specific time windows. We had to travel back and forth to the different homes, and determine when the patients needed to be at the homes to receive med pass. We communicated frequently on our mobile devices.

In May 2011, I received a phone call from one of the group homes when it was about lunch time. It was Vanessa, the direct care nurse. She called to ask me what time I would be at the group home “A” for assessments. I told her about normal time and she said that they were all going to the store and that they would be back on time.

I didn’t think anything of this until I arrived at home “A” and saw that a male patient had his lip split. I asked what happened and Vanessa said the patient had fallen before they went to the store. This patient was prone to falls and seizures, so that was plausible.

Angry about the delay in treatment, I called and arranged for an ambulance to transport the patient to the ER. Vanessa filled out the incident report stating she had notified me of the patient having an injury when she called to confirm the time of the medical assessment. She said nothing of the injury during that phone call.

I returned the next morning to the office of group home “B” and typed up a witness statement on a computer. Just in case, the note was written and locked in the medications room at home “A” were to disappear.

As the summer progressed, my coworker Shelley became a bit unstable. She was spending a lot of time with a much younger year-old staff member, Josh, and he worked group home “B”. She started posting photographs of patients on Facebook with their names, which is a huge no-no, and represents a liability.

I reported her to management. The photographs went away from Facebook, but no punitive action was taken as they could not prove those pictures came from her account.

The situation was serious, it required immediate action. I knew that the office computer at group home “B” was used without permission by Shelly to back up her iPhone. The backup files could have included explicit information about who might have been responsible for sharing sensitive information about our patients. I found your product, the iPhone Backup Extractor, took a portable hard drive to the group home on a weekend and transferred the back-up files over. I paid for the software, downloaded it, and then extracted the contents of the back-up.

I didn’t really think it would be that bad. I honestly didn’t.

There were pictures and videos on her phone where she and other nurses had posed the patients in certain ways for their own amusement. In some videos the staff mocked the patient and made them say perverted things. This text message bothered me the most. “I have to work this weekend, so it shouldn’t be any trouble to get you some candy.” She was stealing opiates from an elderly man with a cognitive deficit and giving them to Josh.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I told Molly about the situation and then we both went and talked to a lawyer. It was legal for me to disclose this information. It was also legal for me to record every conversation that I was a party to.

The following Monday, we reported this information to the Executive Director and I recorded it. The only thing he did was to put both of them on administrative leave and drug test them. Josh refused the test and was fired, but Shelley passed. Shelley continued on, even though the facts of what happened would bear out the evidence from the text messages. After this happened, the Executive Director locked the computer from group home “B” in his office.

During our yearly audit the auditors had questions about the incident report from May, and the time discrepancy. I answered all the questions truthfully, but I knew Vanessa and Ralph and James were all good friends with Shelley and Josh. They were unhappy that I had reported them.

I said there was an incident report I typed on the computer at group home “B”, but that it was locked in the Executive Director’s office because of the iPhone incident. Nobody knew about that incident, and the Executive Director hadn’t reported any of that information to the state.

I was worried that after this interview I would be fired from a job for the first time in my life. The main auditor pulled me aside and grilled me on what had happened. When I told him I had a recording of the meeting with the Executive Director, he cracked a smile and said, “You have the recording? That’s just great!”

I was sent to retrieve a copy of the contents of the iPhone backup for the auditors. I had to help the Executive Director hook up the computer with the witness statement and email it to Molly at group home “A”. He knew the auditors were coming to the office. He was under the impression that they were coming to have a meeting with us. In reality they were coming to retrieve a CD with damning evidence of his negligence as its contents.

The Executive Director wanted me to wait in his office. He asked why they were coming back and I told them it was to retrieve a copy of an incident report I had kept. I opted to wait in my car in the parking lot. I could see the blinds from many offices parted to watch me. The auditors arrived, took the CD, and left. Soon after, they asked me to interview with a corporate investigator. He brought a company computer tech who was clueless. I had to walk him through how to buy, then install your software, and then extract that information. I watched as the expressions on their faces changed whenever they realised how serious this was. They took the hard drive and then I had to help them troubleshoot the information they had been given. He expected me to believe that they couldn’t verify that the pictures had been taken from that iPhone. I had to teach his computer tech about EXIF data. The evidence was overwhelming.

They fired approximately 50 people including the Executive Director and my director of nursing.

The lives of 16 men and women who cannot take care of themselves are much improved because of the software you developed. The iPhone Backup Extractor generated all the evidence needed to get those people removed from positions of power. It probably saved my nursing license too. Thank you.

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