N.J. nurse claims co-workers gave patients Benadryl to make them drowsy, ‘lighten workload’

A New Jersey hospital nurse claims in a lawsuit against her employer that some staff on the night shift gave patients Benadryl to make them sleepy, and that when she complained about the misconduct a supervisor retaliated against her.

Patricia Moran, of Wall, filed the suit Wednesday in state Superior Court claiming that several of her co-workers in the adult psychiatric unit at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch on the Jersey Shore “knowingly misused and administered” the antihistamine to either put patients to sleep or make them drowsy.

The suit alleges that the patients were given Benadryl, which lists drowsiness as a main side effect, to “lighten the workload for the night shift nurses.” Moran claims that nurses involved in the misconduct did not make notations in the patients’ charts that they had been given the medicine.

Moran’s lawsuit says she first noticed the alleged misconduct in March 2019 and immediately reported it to her manager.

The lawsuit claims that after Moran, who has worked at the hospital for more than 30 years, brought her concerns to a supervisor, the prescribing of the antihistamine was “substantiated by the hospital” and administrators “gave instructions to stop it.”

After Moran reported the alleged misconduct, her supervisor launched an “immediate retaliatory campaign” to get her to quit or to justify firing her, the suit says.

The supervisor allegedly gave Moran a “bogus” evaluation and transferred her from the adult psychiatric floor to the children’s unit, for which she was not properly trained.

The lawsuit cites one incident in July when Moran said she was uncomfortable doing a pediatric admission because of her lack of training in that area. It claims that her supervisor accused her of “refusing” to perform her job duties and that Moran was suspended for 14 weeks without pay and told she could be terminated.

Moran was cleared to return to work earlier this month, but alleges in the suit that her supervisor refuses to give her a shift. She is still employed by the hospital.

Matthew A. Luber, an attorney for Moran, told NBC News in a statement Thursday that the hospital “turned its back” on his client and that its conduct was “egregious.”

“No employee deserves to be treated in such a manner, let alone someone who has dedicated more than 31 years at this particular hospital. Ms. Moran looks forward to her day in court,” he said.

A spokesperson for RWJBarnabas Health, a health care network that owns the hospital, said it cannot comment on matters regarding patients and employees.

“Monmouth Medical Center is fully committed to providing a safe environment for our patients, visitors and staff,” said a statement from RWJBarnabas Health.

Moran is seeking an unspecified monetary judgment plus damages.