I started my nursing career at Albany Medical Center across the street from the VA as a candy striper at age 15. I looked up to the student nurses and dreamed of becoming one. I won the hospital auxiliary scholarship to attend nursing school with my essay “Why I want to become a nurse.” I wanted to take care of people and make a difference in their lives when they were feeling their worst.
Many of our veterans are returning from combat with lost limbs, shattered bones, brain injuries and sexual assaults. Others who served years ago are aging and face health complications. I have a passion for psychiatric nursing because I want to take care of “invisible wounds,” or psychological suffering.
In recent years, it’s been very discouraging to watch the level of care given to veterans deteriorate. Their ability to make choices and be involved in their treatment is disregarded. There’s no oversight of the local leadership and no accountability for how they treat employees and veterans. That has harmed patient care and staff morale.
The Albany VA hospital is now part of a national scandal involving veterans who have died while waiting for care, the falsification of appointment schedules, and retaliation against whistleblowers. My case is one of dozens under investigation.
Since my removal, other nurse managers have told me what is going on in the hospice and geriatric units.
Last month, they found that a nurse had been diverting morphine. He was withdrawing the drug from vials and replacing it with water or some other unknown substance.
Over the past year, this had occurred more than 5,000 times.