NEWARK –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that the State Board of Nursing revoked the license of a registered nurse who repeatedly stabbed a 10-year-old autistic child with a hypodermic needle for disobeying her orders in an Atlantic City hospital psychiatric unit in 2016.
Naomi Derrick, of Sicklerville, continually threatened the child by saying she would give him a needle if he did not behave and then carried through with the threat by jabbing him with it on at least six occasions during a 12-hour overnight shift at the Atlanticare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City on May 15, 2016.
In a series of incidents witnessed by a fellow employee or captured on a security camera in the boy’s room, Derrick stuck the child on his upper arm, thigh, kneecaps, foot, and hand, frequently drawing droplets of blood.
“Vulnerable children with special needs should be treated with the highest standard of care,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The conduct at issue in this case did not only fall far short of that standard, it demonstrated a level of cruelty that has no place in the nursing profession, and is entirely unacceptable.”
The State is also moving for the revocation of Derrick’s respiratory therapist license under the State Board of Respiratory Care.
“Intimidating and terrorizing a developmentally disabled child who is completely dependent on your care is a horror that should not be visited upon anyone,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We’re taking appropriate steps to ensure that Naomi Derrick will never again be able to use her position as a licensed health care professional to abuse patients in this state, especially vulnerable children.”
In a Final Decision and Order filed today, the Board described Derrick’s conduct as “egregious and disturbing” and concluded that her interaction with the child amounted to gross and repeated acts of negligence, malpractice, incompetence, and professional misconduct. The Board also found that Derrick lacked good moral character required of a nursing licensee.
“Quite simply, (Derrick) should not be a nurse,” the Board concluded. “With her license revoked, she has lost the privilege to practice. The Board notes that the egregiousness of her acts were of a magnitude that would assuredly militate against any future reinstatement of that privilege.”
In voting to revoke Derrick’s license, the Board unanimously adopted the recommended findings and conclusions of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who heard her case during a one-day trial at the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) in March 2019.
During that OAL hearing, Derrick denied ever touching the boy with the needle but conceded that throughout the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift she did continually unsheathe the needle and threaten him with it to “calm him down.” Derrick testified that the boy would call her names, pull her hair, throw a sheet at her, and try to leave the room and go into other patients’ rooms. She admitted continually telling the boy that if he did not listen he would be “put in restraints and get the injection.” Derrick testified that another nurse had verbally instructed her to do that but the instruction was not in writing.
In an Initial Decision filed in June, the ALJ recommended that Derrick’s license be revoked.
Last month the Board held a hearing to decide whether to accept, reject, or modify the findings and recommendations in the Initial Decision.
During that hearing, Derrick argued that her license should not be revoked. She instead suggested that her license be suspended for some period of time, arguing that that there was no evidence that the child was injured – that no blood or bruising could be seen on the video and an examination of the child on the next day revealed no obvious signs of injury. She also argued that she had been a nurse for eight years prior to the incident and had no other disciplinary order against her.
In addition to revoking Derrick’s license, the Board ordered her to pay 10 percent of the costs arising from the investigation and prosecution of her case – an amount totaling $2,166. The State had argued that Derrick should be held responsible for 100 percent of the costs but the Board opted to follow the ALJ recommendation of 10 percent.
Derrick’s license was temporarily suspended in August 2016, pending the outcome of her case and pending the outcome of any criminal charges filed against her as a result of her interaction with the child. In August 2017, Derrick was criminally charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, child endangerment, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose (the syringe.) In January 2019, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office allowed Derrick to enter a pretrial intervention program to resolve those charges.
This investigation was conducted by the Enforcement Bureau of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Deputy Attorney General David M. Puteska from the Division of Law represented the State in this matter.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.