Nurses cited for assaulting a patient, being drunk at work, sleeping on the job
Danny Mendez-Patterson (Photo courtesy of Polk County Jail)

Iowa nurses have been sanctioned recently for being drunk at work, using cocaine, sleeping on the job and assaulting a patient.

One of the disciplinary cases that recently come before the Iowa Board of Nursing involves Lacey Friis, 39, of Sioux City, who has agreed to surrender her license to practice nursing. Board documents indicate Friis was working for an unspecified hospital from June 2015 until June 2022 when her employment was terminated.

According to the board, on June 7, 2022, Friis was seen using profanity and behaving unusually at work. She allegedly showed signs that she couldn’t focus and appeared to be falling asleep on the job.

Two weeks later, on the morning of June 23, Friis allegedly reported to work and behaved normally but according to the board, she had been seen purchasing and consuming alcohol at a nearby grocery store at midday, during her shift, before being sent home by management, and again after work.

The board charged Friis with excessive use of alcohol in a manner that might impair a nurse’s ability to practice the profession with reasonable skill and safety. Friis agreed to surrender her license.

Friis has worked at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City since 2015. Board records indicate Friis has not previously been subject to any public discipline. However, court records indicate she was convicted of drunken driving in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2016, she was also arrested and charged with felony theft for allegedly stealing $240 from a taxi driver. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft.

Last month, Friis was charged with drunken driving after police alleged she was found in a Target store parking lot, slumped over in her car, which was running. That case is pending.

In 2018, Friis was the recipient of the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

More nurse disciplinary cases

Other Iowa-licensed nurses whose licenses have been restricted recently include:

Danny Trent Mendez-Patterson, 42, who, under the name Danny Trent Nazareth-Patterson, was charged by the board with being convicted of an offense directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the profession. He recently agreed to surrender his license. Court records indicate that in December 2021, Mendez-Patterson was employed by the Parkridge Specialty Care nursing home in Pleasant Hill where he assaulted a resident of the facility.

Danny Mendez-Patterson (Photo courtesy of Polk County Jail)

After being charged with assault causing injury, Mendez-Patterson pleaded guilty to the offense. In March 2022, he was sentenced to one year of probation. According to police, witnesses alleged they saw Patterson push, slap and hit the 77-year-old woman, causing bruising around her right eye. The woman suffered an anxiety attack and was briefly hospitalized, according to court records.

Donna Kemker, a travel nurse from Georgia, who has agreed to relinquish her right to practice nursing in Iowa. The board alleged that while working as a travel nurse, Kemker was assigned to a hospital in May 2022 and she arrived for work showing signs of drowsiness, slurred speech and an unsteady gait.

She was evaluated in the hospital’s emergency department where, according to the board, tests showed she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.265 – more than three times the legal limit for driving. Kemker allegedly admitted she had consumed a large amount of alcohol before reporting for work and could feel its effect.

Valerie Barfield, 50, of Wellman, who has agreed to relinquish her right to practice in Iowa. The board alleged that in July 2022, Barfield was working at an unspecified care facility through an Iowa staffing agency. While on duty, Barfield repeatedly slept, and was seen by co-workers sitting in a recliner for extended periods.

Care-facility records indicated Barfield claimed to have administered multiple medications to residents throughout her shift, although video footage suggested the residents never received their medication. The video footage allegedly showed Barfield procuring multiple pills for residents without ever administering the drugs. According to the board, she later tested positive for cocaine.

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