Two days after a patient complained that a contract nurse fondled her at George Washington University Hospital in May 2013, administrators removed him from his duties and called D.C. police. Detectives questioned the suspect, and the San Diego firm that places contract nurses in hospitals across the country took him off its rolls.
The nurse, 37-year-old Jared Kline, signed on with another company. That September, he was back at work, this time at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, according to a spokeswoman. A few months later, a patient complained to police that Kline fondled her, records show. Hospital officials suspended him and notified the D.C. Board of Nursing, and the hiring agency severed ties.
Police said Kline sexually assaulted two more women after being removed from his duties at Washington Hospital Center — this past January and August — all while still being investigated in the previous incidents, the last while police were seeking him on an arrest warrant.
It wasn’t until the D.C. Board of Nursing suspended Kline’s license on Sept. 18 that there was public notice of misconduct. The Maryland Board of Nursing followed suit in October. Police arrested Kline on Nov. 18 and charged him with assault and a misdemeanor sexual offense in Maryland as well as with three counts of felony sexual abuse in the District. Kline has been freed from custody pending trial.
A review of records from police and nursing boards in Maryland and the District show that Kline took advantage of disparate reporting rules that shielded the public from internal reviews and police investigations. While hospital officials all said they reacted quickly to remove Kline, one failed to notify the District’s nursing board and none warned others about the alleged misconduct, records show. And without decisive action from police or regulatory agencies — such as an arrest or license revocation — Kline was free to continue practicing even after being removed from his duties and while under scrutiny by law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
Prosecutors in the District earlier this month offered Kline a deal to plead guilty to one count of attempted second-degree sexual abuse and one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse of a patient. He would face up to three years in prison and have to voluntarily surrender his license. He has a court hearing scheduled for Jan. 7 in D.C. Superior Court. Kline could not be reached to comment; his attorney with the Public Defender Service did not return numerous phone calls.
Kline denied to police that he intentionally did anything inappropriate and attributed any contact to misunderstandings or accidents during close-patient care, such as brushing a woman’s arm against his thigh to insert an IV or take blood pressure, according to a police report.
But in each case, women reported that while they were sedated or pretending to be asleep, Kline positioned or placed their hands on his groin and rubbed against them. One woman told police that Kline gave her medicine her doctor ordered her not to take, causing her to feel “jittery” or “groggy,” according to a D.C. police affidavit. Another woman texted a friend while at the hospital, writing, “I want to leave. . . . He’s creepy,” according to nursing board records.
The charges come as Maryland officials have tried to provide more oversight for health-care professionals such as Kline. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, recommended last year that nurses and other medical practitioners be treated the same as doctors, whose names are fed into a national database when they are fired or disciplined, even when criminal or other investigations are pending. That would have flagged Kline back in May 2013.
“It’s very important that disciplinary actions are available to the people doing the hiring,” said Sharfstein, the top health official in Maryland, where a clinic in Bowie employed Kline without knowing that he had been removed from his duties at two hospitals in the District and that he was under police investigation. “It should make a great deal of difference in the decisions that are made.”
Last year, Sharfstein urged that disclosure rules be relaxed and investigations sped up to better protect the public after a similar episode last year in the state. He reiterated those concerns in an interview after Kline’s arrest.
Health officials in the District said they did everything they could to investigate Kline while ensuring that his rights were protected. “We followed the letter of the law,” said Rikin Mehta, the senior deputy director of the D.C. Health Regulation and Licensing Administration. “We acted as quickly as possible to protect the public against imminent harm.”
But neither official would address whether more needs to be done to prevent or warn hospitals about medical workers under investigation. Mehta said the nursing board’s investigation of Kline “went pretty quickly.” He said a background check would flag only a criminal conviction or a license suspension. “We have to make sure due process is given before we take action,” Mehta said.
D.C. police declined to comment on their investigation, citing pending court action. But the arrest affidavit describes detectives sorting through conflicting accounts from Kline — who they interviewed twice — and his patients. It wasn’t until a pattern emerged that the suspect’s version of accidentally touching patients seemed unlikely, according to those records.
District health officials said their investigation into Kline was delayed by seven months because George Washington University failed to notify them after they fired the nurse in May. The first complaint the board received was in December from Washington Hospital Center, according to Karen V. Scipio-Skinner, the director of the D.C. Board of Nursing. Van Brathwaite, an assistant attorney general and counsel for the D.C. Department of Health, said reporting firings for medical misconduct is required under D.C. law.
A GWU spokeswoman confirmed that Kline was removed from his duties May 14, 2013, but declined to address why regulators were not notified.
Wendy M. Adkins, the hospital’s director of marketing and business development, said in a statement that the medical facility “took all necessary steps to protect its patients upon notification of the allegations relating to Mr. Kline including his immediate removal from any further patient care at GW Hospital and notification to his employer.”
Adkins said the hospital contacted police “at the time the allegations were made known to us and cooperated with them fully in their investigation of this matter. We believe that we complied with all laws relating to this matter.”
Detailing Kline’s odyssey through Maryland and the District is complicated by the lack of information made public, including in some records, such as the arrest affidavit. Most hospitals declined to identify the companies that hired Kline and placed him at their facilities, even while passing responsibility for conducting background checks to those companies. Representatives of United Medical Center did not return numerous phone calls since Kline’s arrest in November.
Kline, who got his start as a nurse at a hospital emergency room in Iowa, began working as a traveling nurse in 2010. At some later point, a San Diego-based company, AYA Healthcare, found him a job at George Washington University Hospital. A company official said Kline had a clean background in Iowa.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said that Kline worked there a short time before a patient complained of being sexually assaulted on May 12, 2013, while being treated for a migraine headache. The hospital and AYA removed him from patient care. D.C. police interviewed Kline on May 14 at its sexual assault unit. No charges were filed.
Kline then signed on with another California traveling nurse company, American Mobile Heathcare. A spokesman said his résumé made no mention of working at GWU. A background check revealed “no prior incidents,” the spokesman said.
The patient at Washington Hospital Center reported being sexually assaulted Dec. 29, 2013, after being taken to the emergency room for being intoxicated. The woman filed a complaint with the hospital and D.C. police, who again interviewed Kline, this time at the hospital. Again, no charges were filed. Washington Hospital Center removed Kline from his duties, as did American Mobile Healthcare.
All the while, Kline was working at the Bowie Health Center in Maryland. Erika Murray, a spokeswoman for Dimensions Healthcare Systems, which runs the clinic, said he was hired June 25, 2012. She declined to name the outside agency. A patient complained that she was sexually assaulted Jan. 20, 2014, while being treated for an adverse reaction to a tetanus shot.
Bowie police filed an arrest warrant Feb. 12, 2014, charging Kline in Maryland with assault and a misdemeanor sex offense. The health center spokeswoman said Kline was “immediately terminated and not allowed to return to any of our facilities.” The clinic and police reported Kline to the Maryland Board of Nursing Feb. 27, more than a month after the incident occurred, according to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The spokesperson did not explain the delay.
Kline, now being sought by authorities in Maryland, found another job or continued to work at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. On Aug. 25, a patient complained that two days earlier, she had been sexually assaulted while being treated for an asthma attack.
Police said Kline obtained her cellphone number from private records and texted her after she had been discharged. He told her she had left her makeup bag behind. The woman texted back a thank you and said she was returning, though she did not know who had sent her the message. Police said the response came: “Anytime love, Get better.”
Police said that when the woman pulled up to the hospital, she “saw the same male nurse who sexually assaulted her walking with her makeup bag. He handed her the bag, and the complainant drove away.”
That woman’s call to police led to his arrest.