Nurse Accused of Helping with Surgery While Drunk

PLAINS TOWNSHIP -- A nurse is charged with being drunk while assisting on an emergency surgery at the VA Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre.

He admits he was at a casino drinking when he was called into work.

It was a little before midnight on February 4 when on-call nurse Richard Pieri of Drums got called to the VA Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre for an emergency surgery.

Police say there's video of him stumbling through the parking lot before he headed inside and helped with an emergency appendectomy.

Court papers say Pieri wasn't acting himself that night, had trouble logging into a basic computer system, didn't log the time of the operation correctly, and showed other signs, too.

A coworker anonymously reported him.

"Patient safety is paramount. We want to be sure our patients are safe. As soon as we were notified of the event, we made sure there were no unsafe situations for our patients and then we did the further investigations," said VA Medical Center executive assistant to director William Klaips.

Veterans Affairs police interviewed Pieri. According to court papers, he told them he had four or five beers while playing slots at the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino. He had just gotten home when he got paged to come in.

He was responsible for preparing the patient, preparing the material in the operating room, and monitoring that patient's vital signs during surgery.

Stanley Bilwin has received a lot of care at the VA. He blames the nurse, not the medical center.

"I get really good care up there. The doctors, everybody up there is usually great, real good. They cured cancer, I got a hernia done, a lot of stuff," Bilwin said.

Pieri is charged with recklessly endangering another person, DUI, and public drunkenness.

He told police he knew it was wrong to come to work drunk, but forgot he was on call.

A VA spokesperson says he has been removed from any direct patient care while this criminal case and investigation continue.

The VA believes the situation had no impact on the patient.

19 comments

  • terri

    first no nurse would ever drink/drive or party if they are on call and there is no way to forget your on call as you leave with a pager or hospital ph after you work your regular shift for the day…2nd if this was the rn in the room he is called a circulating nurse they have hands on the patient to prep them before surgery he/she is unsterile records paperwork while the surgery is underway, keeps tally of instruments and sponges to avoid anything being left behind in the patient…different story if this was the scrub tech either way this nurse should be fired and have license suspended

  • disgusted veteran

    You guys are being to hard on this guy. The va is a crap hole. I’m a veteran and I refuse to go back to that place. I can understand why he mixed alcohol with employment. It’s probably the only way he could stomach this place.

  • Darlene

    It’s a crime to be drunk on a federal facility. It is a crime to drink and drive and he certainly had enough to drink to be drunk some time later. My bet is that he was sucking breath mints like no tomorrow. In a surgery suite your mouth/face is covered with a mask. He did the prep work which means he could freely move and did not have to stand still beside others. Emergency means everyone moves fast. Thank goodness someone reported him. The patient was endangered because he was impaired. On a call back, there is no extra help. It is your team and that is it. He knew he was on call. No nurse forgets that.

  • Janet

    Really good care at a VA center…. Let just this part go on record for the credibility of the care given at such facilities. Let’s start there.

  • Ton

    He is human, just like everyone else. People should hold their judgements, because I am sure everyone one of you have had dirty hands at some point. The man was not effected, so move on with your lives. Repercussions are undoubtedly on their way. Stoning is not needed.

    • JazzEEOne

      You are obviously not a nurse. You do not compromise your integrity nor the safety of your patient. If you are on call, you are obligated to be prepared to come to work at any time, that means you do not drink, you do not take prescription drugs that will alter your behavior and you don’t do recreational drugs

    • YeahYeahYeah

      Would you be saying that if it was your loved one on the table? When you take the job of a nurse, especially one assisting in surgeries, you take on the responsibility to be SOBER when you are supposed to be on call or working. And if he FORGOT he was on call… he must have remembered it when he got the page! And at THAT point should have called his supervisor and told them that he had been drinking and couldn’t come in. Instead he decided to put someone’s life at risk. He should be punished.

      • JazzEEOne

        Oh, believe that he will be! There is no “especially”. It doesn’t matter if your job is working the front desk during that shift, you never know when you may be called into service for an emergency. You do NOT go to work compromised. You just don’t do it. And you’re right, he put lives at risk. You don’t “forget” you are on call, just like you don’t “forget” to collect your pay. He knew darn well when he decided to go to the casino he was on call, he took a chance that nothing would come up like if frequently doesn’t when one pulls call, but that isn’t the point…if something can go wrong, it usually will. You don’t screw around with people’s well being, your license or your reputation and you definitely don’t screw around with a Vet!

    • JazzEEOne

      Oh, yeah, his license is definitely a wrap…maybe indefinitely, depend on how the Board of Nursing decides. But for sure, he’ll be flipping burgers or something to pay those fines and bills for a while.

  • Mandy

    Only one person noticed he was drunk. No one else thought to send him out instead of risking the patients life with him working. They all should be fired the doctor included.

  • Angel Roberts

    What is wrong with people? What happened to the oaths medical professionals take before we trust them to take care of our loved ones? I understand he was “technically” off duty since he wasn’t physically working a shift on the premises. However, he was on call which means he needed to maintain a heightened level of awareness with the expectation that he could very likely be called in. So, not only did he basically give the finger to that but, could also very well caused an accident getting to hospital, and made much more serious mistakes than incorrectly logging into a computer. His excuse was he forgot he was on call. OK, even if I bought this, which I have doubts about, once he did get the call to come in, someone who was more concerned with the patient than his job would have said, Oh man, forgot I was on call and I’ve been drinking at the casino. He may have been disciplined for forgetting about being on call but this is like a million times worse. Like, loose your license, face criminal charges worse.

    • Jamie

      I disagree Angel-I am a RN & when I am on call I am definitely ON DUTY. This RN should have used better judgement when the pager went off & he never should have left his house let alone attempted to perform his job while intoxicated-on that we agree. He gives nurses a bad name.

    • JazzEEOne

      Slow your roll! Most nurses honor the oaths that we take and we have better professional and personal ethics than to jeopardize our patients and our licenses or to compromise our employers like this. I’ve been in this profession for a long time now and while I will admit that there are a few nurses (and doctors) who could not even give me so much as an aspirin; the majority of nurses I have met in my career would never do something like this and come to work…It’s not worth the liability or the possibility of losing your license and especially not your reputation. Nursing school was more difficult than Basic Training and I wouldn’t want to THAT again either!

      • Ann

        He will have his knuckles wrapped, do some alcohol/drug rehab loose bus license and will get it back but will have to be monitored for a year and then can work on his ow!

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