Jacqueline Brewster faces criminal arraignment in Jonesborough Jan. 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Kentucky nurse facing criminal charges in Washington County for allegedly stealing narcotics while she was a travel employee at Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC) in 2021 has had her license to practice in Tennessee revoked.

The action comes 17 months after Ballad Health reported the incident to TDH, which didn’t take emergency action to suspend Jacqueline Brewster’s privileges to practice in Tennessee. If Tennessee had, it could have resulted in Brewster’s discipline being posted in the “NURSYS” notification system.

Instead, Brewster got a travel job in West Virginia five months later and then was caught in that state allegedly doing the same thing. West Virginia summarily dismissed her license to practice there weeks later, on March 22, and Kentucky suspended her license April 19.

Jacqueline Brewster.

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) fined Brewster $3,000 for three separate violations of the Tennessee Nursing Act related to the alleged drug tampering and diversion. TDH also charged her up to $10,000 for court costs incurred by TDH in its action against her.

Brewster, of Belfry, Ky., faces four counts of obtaining narcotics by fraud in Washington County, related to alleged incidents in June and July 2021 when she was working as a contract travel nurse at JCMC. A grand jury indicted her on those charges in April and after a couple of continuances in August and November, Brewster is now scheduled to be arraigned in criminal court Jan. 6.

JCMC alerted about 100 patients last July they may have been exposed to hepatitis or HIV after it discovered the drug tampering and fired Brewster. Ballad Health said at the time that it had notified the Tennessee Department of Health, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration and the office of the District Attorney.

As TDH worked through its long process to act against Brewster, she obtained employment as a contract nurse in Beckley, WV where she started in early 2022.

The hospital there, like JCMC, reported an alleged drug diversion by Brewster on March 2. Unlike Tennessee, which did not quickly suspend Brewster’s license following the JCMC investigation, West Virginia’s board of nursing summarily suspended her license just a few weeks after the report.

When West Virginia took its action, TDH acknowledged to News Channel 11 that it also would have had the authority to take summary action in 2021 and restrict Brewster’s “ability to work in Tennessee on her multistate privilege.”

Tennessee and Virginia are among about 30 states that participate in an interstate nursing compact allowing nurses with licenses in their home states to practice in the others.

Included in documents from West Virginia’s case against Brewster is a letter from the investigation program coordinator at Kentucky’s board of nursing, Amanda Padgett. That letter acknowledges receipt of West Virginia’s complaint against Brewster and says the Nursing License Compact guides states “where the incident occurred” to “take the lead in conducting the investigation.”

The beginning of a March 22, 2022 document suspending Jacqueline Brewster’s ability to practice nursing in West Virginia. (West Virginia Board of Nursing)

“We understand that, if discipline is issued against this licensee’s privilege to practice by the West Virginia Board of Examiners for Registered Professional Nurses, notification will be posted via NURSYS,” Padgett wrote.

A month later, in mid-April 2022, Kentucky suspended Brewster’s license as well.

TDH’s final order in Brewster’s case comes after a Nov. 16 hearing that Brewster did not attend, though her attorney was there.

The order says JCMC employed Brewster as a travel nurse through Jackson Nurse Professional, a staffing agency, from April 15, 2021, until around July 11, 2021.

JCMC investigated an “unreconciled medication discrepancy” on July 11, 2021, and allegedly found Brewster had administered narcotics outside of doctor’s orders, removed multiple patients’ medications from a cart and failed to document administration. The hospital also found several narcotic syringes had been tampered with, and on that same day, JCMC required Brewster to submit to a urine drug screen, then fired her after she refused to submit an adequate sample.

After the action in West Virginia in March, the Kentucky Board of Nursing took action on April 19, according to the TDH order. Kentucky ordered an “immediate and temporary suspension” based on four findings related to her alleged misuse of drugs, including that she was “unfit or incompetent to practice nursing by reason of negligence or other causes…”

TDH’s order found that during her time at JCMC, Brewster’s actions showed her to be “unfit or incompetent by reason of negligence, habits or other cause” and to be guilty of unprofessional conduct.

It also found she violated Tennessee law by making false or incorrect entries in patient records, by unauthorized use or removal of narcotics, and by her being disciplined in other states for acts that constitute grounds for revocation in Tennessee.