ANNAPOLIS – Six years ago, Debra Shantz Liebrecht was the only registered nurse for about 70 residents at Sunrise at Kensington, an assisted-living facility in Kensington.
In caring for an elderly woman between July and August 1994, Liebrecht incorrectly transcribed medication orders causing the woman to receive blood thinner after a doctor ordered it discontinued, state records show.
Liebrecht delayed a key test for the patient, the records say, and then delayed telling the doctor of the abnormal results. She also failed to notice the woman’s bruises resulting from the medication error.
On Sept. 7, 1994, the elderly woman died. The Maryland Board of Nursing began its investigation January 1995.
It took nearly 68 months to resolve Liebrecht’s case, one of 17 negligence cases in the Maryland Board of Nursing files of nurses who are serving probation reviewed by Capital News Service. CNS found that an average of 39 months passed from the time these incidences occurred to the time the board put the nurses’ licenses on probation.
Liebrecht was put on probation for two years, requiring her to continue practicing nursing under supervision, submit to regular evaluations and successfully complete continuing education classes. The status of her license is up for review April 25, 2002.
The Sunrise company no longer lists a facility in Kensington and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could not find the records about the facility.
Liebrecht didn’t meet with an investigator until March 1996. She said she left the meeting with a favorable impression. The investigator showed her a fax she had forgotten questioning the doctor about whether the medication should be decreased.
“He led me to believe that it would go to the board and that by June or so there would be a decision and that I would then know what they had decided,” said Liebrecht.
“I know that I thought that maybe it would just go away or they would just let me alone,” said Liebrecht. “But I believe it was December of 1998 they sent me a letter saying that my date to come before the pre-hearing conference was Jan. 4 or something.”
Liebrecht has since moved to Colorado where she is working part-time as a nurse. She had to fly back to Maryland to attend the pre-hearing conference. She settled the case even though she said she disagreed with some of the things in her record, especially a line concluding she “is professionally incompetent.” Liebrecht said she couldn’t afford to continue paying legal fees.
“I like the nursing part. You know? The part where you can catch a drug that somebody’s taking that has this side-effect and you’ve figured it out and you realized that, you know, that’s what’s causing all the problems…and that makes all the difference in their quality of life,” said Liebrecht.
“That stuff I like. I have to tell you I’m absolutely terrified of the responsibility part because you just, you can’t go through that again,” she said. “You have to defend yourself, and I don’t think I can anymore.”
The nurse said she tries “to do as excellent a job as I can every day that I go to work.” At the same time, she tries to balance her time at work and time with her family.
“You know, when the two years is up and my name is cleared, which hopefully it will be, will I continue in nursing? I think I’ll just have to see what happens between now and then because at this moment, I don’t know.”